Cellphones for 4-Year-Olds? No Thank You!

All kids, at some point, start begging, pleading, and pestering their parents for their own cellphone. As a mom with a 4-year-old, I assumed I had some time before the whining and wheedling commenced ... but it turns out, I might be wrong.

Over the weekend I saw tons of ads on TV for "smartphones for kids," showing what looked like happy 8-year-olds texting away. Which was bad enough ... then, online, I stumbled across AT&T's FiLIP wearable phone, touted as "perfect for kids 4 through 11."


Four? Really? My own daughter has just turned 4, and the idea of giving her a cellphone, wearable or not, seems insane. Why? Oh, let's think about that for a moment.

First things first: When would my 4-year-old ever be in a situation where she'd need to whip out her own cellphone? It's not like I'd send her to the grocery store on her own to pick up a gallon of milk, and she'd call me to ask if I wanted 1 or 2 percent. Frankly I don't know of any 4-year-olds -- or 5-, 6-, or 8-year-olds for that matter -- who are ever out of eyeshot or earshot of some supervising adult. So if you need to reach your kids, you call the grownup looking after them. Easy peasy.

Four-year-olds, for that matter, aren't great at chatting on the phone. That whole question-and-answer, back-and-forth dialogue through a device you hold to your ear is still a struggle; most kids can't play ball, at least not very well. One time when my daughter was visiting grandma, I called and asked her what she ate for dinner; she launched into a mish-mash monologue about poopy jokes and My Little Pony; she may as well have been stationed on a different planet. So, to curb frustration, I keep phone calls with her to a minimum.

And even if these kid cellphones were more for fun than function -- like those Walkie Talkies I had as a kid -- I still rankle at the cost: the FiLIP, for instance, originally cost $200 (which they've dropped to $100), plus $10 per month. That's one expensive toy! The most lavish item my kid owns is a Rainbow Dash doll that I nearly balked at buying because it cost $30. So, this cellphone is way too rich for my blood.

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And besides, 4-year-old kids lose and break their possessions on a daily basis. If my daughter insists on bringing a toy to school, I kiss it goodbye -- if that toy makes it home, it's a miracle akin to Lassie. That's not something I want happening to a $100 gadget.

Have cellphone companies no shame, hawking their wares to younger and younger customers? Have parents no qualms about the can of worms they open if they hand such an expensive and useless device to their kids? It's bad enough that kids amuse themselves with iPads all day; giving them one more gadget seems like overkill. I, for one, am not buying it. And luckily, so far my daughter has not asked ... yet.

What age do you think a kid is ready for a cellphone?


Image © Heide Benser/Corbis

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