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Fayette-Mom: Cell phones for six-year-olds?

Posted February 7, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

Wow, my last post caused quite the discussion in the comments section about how technology-savvy our kids can and/or should be.

Let me say for the record: my 7-year-old daughter has an iPod because last year she wanted to listen to and practice her dance recital music. We got her the least-expensive model (the Shuffle) and we have to approve every song that she listens to. She doesn’t know how to add songs to her iPod. I’m sure she’ll learn quickly, and we’ll have to monitor that!

I was really surprised at how many of her friends received the iPod Touch for Christmas. I don’t even have one of those! But I’m aware that families make choices that they believe are best for them.

With that said, I have another question: At what age do children get cell phones these days? I thought my kids wouldn’t get them for many years to come. Imagine my surprise when one of our neighbors, just 6 and a half years old at the time, whipped out a cell phone one day! I asked him who it belonged to, thinking that maybe his mom gave it to him while he was on a play date. But no: It was his.

Wow! Do kids really get cell phones that young? What is the reason? My kids are either at school or they are with me. Sure, they go on play dates and they have supervised activities after school in which they participate. But with play dates, I know the moms and their phone numbers. With the supervised activities, I am usually there watching, or if I can’t be there, I always make sure another mom I know is staying.

Someone suggested perhaps kids whose parents are divorced have cell phones so that the parent they are not with can always reach them. That I understand. But what are the other cases in which a cell phone for a 6-year-old is appropriate?

If you know something I don’t, and believe me, that is quite possible, please enlighten me in the comments. IPods, I understand. With cell phones, I am (apparently) clueless.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.



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  • jkca Feb 11, 2011

    Why would a child need a cell phone? If you feel your young child needs a cell phone then the parent is leaving the somewhere they shouldn't be without the supervision of a responsible adult WITH ACCESS to a phone or the child just gets whatever he or she wants (=spoiled).

  • cjnall Feb 9, 2011

    My children got cell phones when they began high school activities and sports that sometimes have times to vary. Of course they are 23 & 25 now so it was a while ago. I still think middle to high school is soon enough.

  • rebecca7 Feb 9, 2011

    A lot of the sentiments below assume that we, as parents, have the right to make these decisions for our children. As in the previous post, "I can and can't do based on what I believe and want for her .." Well, not really. The government is taking over your position and assuming the authority to parent your child. Take for example, the new food laws enacted for our preschool and daycare kids. Parents don't decide, the government dictates what they are and are not allowed to have.

    Anyway... yes, 6 is WAY too young for a cell phone. I'm 28 and I got one (PAID BY ME) when I could drive a car alone. No one paid for it, I did. I had to work to have a car to get to work (yes, I had help initially obtaining a car) and work to have a cell phone. No one provided one to me or paid for it. And cell phone use in school was basically unheard of.

  • madamwuf Feb 9, 2011

    My kids will get them at the age when they start taking part in after-school activities. At my high school, there was no way to get in touch with my parents unless a friend had a phone. Pay phones and school phones were in the locked school building. After 5, the building was closed and there was no access inside. Practice end an hour early? And it's 30 degrees outside? A phone is simply practical.

  • Gottalovemy4dogs Feb 9, 2011

    It should be up to each family to decide and it should be nobody else’s business. My attitude is, I will decide what my daughter can and can’t do based on what I believe and want for her and I really don’t care what anyone else says about it. Other mothers are a mother’s worst enemy. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had to excuse myself from where other mothers were bashing other parents over school, learning, bedtime, potty training, when to give up a bottle/pacifier, stay at home or work, how the kids dress, table manners, TV time….I could go on and on. We all need to get it, that we all have our own preferences for our families. To sit around with a bunch of busy-bodies and complain about how other parents do things is just a pure show of hatefulness and negativity.

  • andreanicole686 Feb 9, 2011

    I think 6 years old is WAY too young! I mean maybe 12 or 13 if they are in after school programs. But I didn't get one until I was 16 when I was driving. Before that I just used the school phone to call home. I'm only 24. I think parents are getting kids phones WAY WAY too early.

  • RickiW Feb 8, 2011

    You know, I was once sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight and struck up a conversation with an elderly women. During our conversation, she made a comment about how everyone around us either had a cell phone up to their ear, or was texting away. I must admit, I am guilty of this myself sometimes. When she made the comment, I asked her what people used to do back in the day before mobile phones. She exclaimed loudly "they waited until they got home!"

  • edith wharton Feb 8, 2011

    I think each family must decide what works for them. None of our kids got a cell phone until they got a driver's license. I have friends whose kids had games, practices or after school activities that ended at varying times and they gave their kids cell phones so they could call to be picked up. Our kids either used a school phone, a pay phone (which still exist!) or a friend's phone. I have never been afraid for my kids to NOT have a phone, because there is always another option. We chose to get them a cell phone (with NO texting option) when they began to drive unaccompanied so they could call for roadside assistance or call us with issues or to let us know they were en route.

    I also never worried about other kids' (or parents') reactions to my kids not having a cell phone. How is it anyone else's business whether your child has a phone or not?

  • murdock Feb 8, 2011

    I know of a family who did not give their 15 yo a cell phone and another child who was 11 was literally picking on the 15 yo for not having a cell phone. I don't think kids should have cell phones and I have seen them text and get on FB during school. And we wonder why they are not learning.

  • MonkeyFace Feb 8, 2011

    i will say it like this.. people will give you dirty looks these days for letting a preteen have a cell phone. When i was 13, my parent got me my own phone line (house phone) so I wouldn't tie up the main phone for hours on end talking to my friends.. but really.. how many house holds have regular house phones these days? I most certainly don't. I don't agree with young kids having cell phones.. 6 is wayyy too young in my book if you ask me. I think once my daughter is a teen/preteen, i would let her have her own PRE PAID cell phone if i still dont' have a house phone. Which I have many years to go before I even think of that...