Ringtones or Ring Around the Rosie: Too Young for Cell Phone?

December 3, 2013
By: Joyce Shulman
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About as early as my daughter could speak, she began asking for a phone. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly by age six, a cell phone began to appear on every birthday and holiday wish list. She recently turned eight and we are still holding strong, but it got the Macaroni Kid team wondering … how young is too young for a cellphone?

Last week, we surveyed more than 600 moms across the country and learned some interesting things about when kids are getting their first phones, and why.

Of the kids who already have cellphones, a whopping 82% received their first phone before they were 12. But, it looks like those who don’t have phones are going to have to wait a bit -- 66% of the moms surveyed don’t plan to connect their kids until they are teenagers. Does that suggest that moms of younger children believe they will be able to withstand the pressure and hold out until the teen years? Our guess is yes. Sure, when your kids are young, it seems easy to say there is no reason to “wire them up” until the teen years. But once the reality of middle school sinks in, the need and desire, for a phone often becomes too hard to resist.

There are very legitimate reasons to connect your ‘tween. Middle school is when many kids begin to have more independence, staying afterschool for clubs and sports, heading to the mall with friends and, gulp, sleeping at friends’ homes. With landlines now found in fewer than 41% of households we surveyed, who can blame a mom for wanting to be able to reach Annie when she’s at Sarah’s house?

As a mom, I have mixed feelings about all of this. It is great to be able to reach my kids when I want to, but as I see my 13-year-old with his nose constantly in his iPhone, I wonder if they growing up too fast. For now, I continue to resist my eight-year-old plea for a phone, but I suspect I will succumb by 12.


1) Steve said:
I say 10 to 12 is about the right time.
3 months, 3 weeks ago
2) eric said:
No phone until they drive!
3 months, 3 weeks ago
3) Eva said:
Usually when they start middle school, but I've seen much younger kids from divorced parents that have a phone to stay in touch with either parent all the time. That makes them feel more secure.
3 months, 1 week ago
4) eric said:
It does seem like all of my sons' middle school friends have phones.
3 months, 1 week ago
5) Jennifer said:
We grew up without them, and even with sports and activities did just fine. If practice/whatever ended early, you sat and waited.
3 months, 1 week ago

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