We were sitting outside a restaurant enjoying a mother/daughter meal when my 8-year-old pointed to a girl at another table with her eyes wide. Perched on a bench was a girl about my daughter's age, a cellphone in a pink jeweled case in her hands. I didn't even let her start a sentence before I dropped my bomb, "You're not getting one."
She looked at me, a little wounded. It turns out she was just going to comment on how rude the girl was for using her cellphone at the table. Pheww! My kid has manners!
But she's still not getting her own cellphone. Not for a loooooong time.
I have thought about it. I upgraded my smartphone a few months ago, and I had the old one, still in working condition. I debated handing it over to her to use as a music player, with the possibility of hooking it up to a wireless service down the road.
My husband and I talked about it, but we were worried: would this rush the inevitable? Would "sometime down the road" become "this Christmas"?
I know an increasing number of parents are doing it for kids her age and younger. One recent survey found one in 10 kids were getting a mobile phone as early as age 5!
To which I have to ask: who is a 5-year-old so desperate to call?
I know my 8-year-old is already like a teenager, going into her room and closing the door when she talks to her friends, but she still has only a handful of people she'll chat with on the phone. There are no emergency calls that she has to make, nothing that can't be handled on our home phone (yes, we still have one) or one of her parents' cellphones.
This may be the easiest way to tell if a child is ready for their own cellphone: who are they going to call ... and can they call that person with a phone that already exists?
Right now, for my 8-year-old, the answer is yes. She can call her friends and her grandparents with any phone in the house.
She doesn't need a cellphone for the calls she makes right now.
By the time she's 12, when she goes off to junior high and may stay after school for clubs and sports, that answer may be no. She may have reason to call home to her father and to me about changes in game or practice schedules, although even then I'm guessing a coach's phone or school phone will be available for her use. We'll see at that point if we have to revisit this subject.
But if you're wondering if you should cave to your child's request, maybe it's time you sit down and ask yourself the question I've asked myself: are your kid's current phone call needs already being met? Then they don't need a cellphone.
If they're not, well, then maybe it's time to consider the purchase.
Do your kids have cellphones? How old are they?
Image via Kubosh/Flickr