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Kids with Cell Phones, How Young is Too Young? 514

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the how-often-are-they-on-their-own dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CNet is reporting that the average age of a child receiving their first cell phone is continuing to drop. A report carried out last year showed that the average age of a child's first cell phone was just eight years old and is expected to drop closer to 5 years of age this year. The author raises the obligatory medical questions that have been argued about in adults for years. Just how young is too young for a cell phone?
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Kids with Cell Phones, How Young is Too Young?

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  • by wiggles (30088) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:18PM (#15922188)
    I wonder if this survey counted those cell phones that will only call certain preprogrammed numbers, like home or Mom or some such? I would be all over those suckers if I had kids.
    • These exist. Verizon has a little doohickey that allows you to preprogram four numbers. It also has a handy little kidtracker GPS. If my brother weren't 15, I'd sew one into his hip.
      • Clicky [phonescoop.com]
        Clicky, too [google.com]
        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:34PM (#15922348) Homepage Journal
          What the hell does a kid under the age of like 13 need a cell phone for???

          Shouldn't someone 8 yrs old be playing with walkie talkies or something? Geez...seems like people are trying to get kids to grow up too fast these days....

          • by HaloZero (610207) <protodeka@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:42PM (#15922434) Homepage
            Admittedly, it's an idea that's definately got the potential to be misused.

            During a large scale event (30,000+ people), my younger brother was seperated from my mother. She usually does a supreme job of keeping track of him, but - from what I understand - my dad asked her a quick question and took her attention away just long enough. He was nine at the time. We scoured that event for about thirty panicking minutes, until a New York State Trooper called in and said that they found him. He was no more than five feet from where he had originally been - had gone over to check out one of our local ambulance crews and their on-site setup.

            If he had had a phone, it would have taken no more than 90 seconds to find him, I'd bet. He had no idea that we'd misplaced him, or that he was being searched for, until after we found him, of course. I know that they pounded the 'Tell us where you're going'/'Don't wander off in crowds'/'Don't ever leave my side' lessons into him - I got the very same. Just never occured to him.
          • Why? Dude kids get lost. Ever try to find a kid at the mall, school event, or fair?
            Kid is at school and a friend asks him or her if he can come over? Call the parents and see if it is okay.
            I find the idea of kids with cell phones strange at best but I can see the value of it. A differential GPS type set up would be great. If I could use my phone to home in on my kids or even my wifes phone that would be ideal. We often use our phones at the mall or Home Depot to find each other.
            • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:13PM (#15922703) Homepage Journal
              "Kid is at school and a friend asks him or her if he can come over?"

              Same thing happened when we were kids. But we used the phone AT the friends house. That was pretty much summer running rules. I'd leave early in the morning, and run around with all my friends in the neighborhood...we'd all be at one of our houses or the neighborhood pool. When really young, my folks had me call from wherever I was to let them know where I was at, etc. Most people had phones at their homes...also, it pretty much verified WHERE I was too.

              No cell phones needed...

              I'm more and more with others on this thread. When the kid is able to work, and PAY for their own minutes used....cool, they can get a cell phone.

              • Most people had phones at their homes...also, it pretty much verified WHERE I was too.

                No cell phones needed...

                I'm more and more with others on this thread. When the kid is able to work, and PAY for their own minutes used....cool, they can get a cell phone.


                Most people have phones, this is true. But not all places have public phones. For example, my nieces and newphews often needed a ride home from school. At first they had a standard phone which could be used for this unlikely event, but they got rid of
        • Clicky [phonescoop.com]
          Clicky, too [google.com]

          "I thought again of the eldritch primal myths that had so persistently haunted me since my first sight of this dead antarctic world--of the demoniac plateau of Leng, of the Mi-Go..."
          -- H.P. Lovecraft,AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS [gutenberg.net.au]

          While the Mi-go phone is extremely cool, you might want to wait for the DeepOnes® waterproof model, or the exceptionally cute Tcho-Tcho® version

      • by B11 (894359) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:48PM (#15922492)
        It also has a handy little kidtracker GPS. If my brother weren't 15, I'd sew one into his hip.
        Well aren't you a big brother. Yes, let's get kids used to having their activities/whereabouts monitored, recorded, and analyzed at an early age.
      • by jesuscyborg (903402) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:14PM (#15922711)
        > [Cell phones] also [have] a handy little kidtracker GPS

        So that's why my mom insists on continuing to pay for my cell phone despite the fact that I am living on my own and making a six figure salary! Better leave it at home next time I troll a Vampyre club and strip joint...
    • by joystickgenie (913297) <joleske@joystickgenie.com> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:34PM (#15922356) Homepage
      Yeah I think those phones are fine. Like the firefly, where the only people the kid can call are mom dad and the police. That is just an extra security for your child. Although I don't think it is a necessary one most of the time.

      However I don't think that children should have their own cell phones (the full ones). In fact I don't think young teens should have their own cell phones either. Until you can drive a car and have the possibility of being stranded somewhere, I don't think it is necessary to have a phone.

      Hmm.... Yeah I'm gona end up fighting with my daughter over this...
      • Until they can... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ivan256 (17499)
        The car thing seems arbitrary, though the 16 year old driving age seems arbitrary to me too. You should be able to (drive|drink|vote) when you can prove you are responsible and capable enough to handle it. I think the same should go for cell phone ownership. When you are responsible enough and capable of paying for your phone, you are old enough to have one. Until then you aren't. They are a luxury device, and no matter what anybody says, nobody *needs* one.

        As for the 'medical concerns', I'm convinced that
    • Emergency Phone. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tempest69 (572798)
      Really for a kid, I want a few things: Being able to call 911. Being able to call a few relatives. Being able to accept a call (skip giving them the number). I'd really love to get GPS tracking, just in case.

      I'm realizing that I may never have a landline again (I havent had one for years).. So having a kid call her friends is getting a bit more complicated than back in the landline era. I'm still not sure how it will work out.....

      Once they are old enough to afford a real cell phone then they can p

    • I am intrigued by the recent "kid phones" with only 4 or so buttons, one for each pre-programmed number... but still -- who the hell leaves their 8 year old in a situation where they would need to call someone in an emergency but wouldn't have landline access?! I'm 21, I bought my first cell phone a year ago because I was moving to a new place and all of my roommates there had cell phones (so no one wanted to pay for a landline).

      8 year olds should NEVER be put in a situation where they would need a cell p
      • by wanerious (712877) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:00PM (#15922590) Homepage
        who the hell leaves their 8 year old in a situation where they would need to call someone in an emergency but wouldn't have landline access?!

        It's called a *mistake*

        I'm 21

        Ah, that explains it.

        8 year olds should NEVER be put in a situation where they would need a cell phone.

        Of course not. Mistakes happen. They can get easily separated in crowded areas (heck, even a Wal-Mart), and having a special-purpose phone would save parents like me a lot of panic. I would only give them the phone in these special circumstances.

      • by porcupine8 (816071) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:06PM (#15922647) Journal
        You seem to have an amazingly oversimplified view of how easy it is to keep kids safe. I'm not a parent yet, but even I know that every parent, even the best, is likely to have one or two panicky moments when Junior was right by their side a minute ago and now is nowhere to be seen. It only takes a few seconds, and if your kid can call you when they wind up "lost" three aisles down from you it can prevent a lot of panic on both ends.

        Heck, I had a scary experience as a kid that shows you can't be too careful. We were at TG&Y (a now-defunct K-Martlike store), and I was walking a couple steps behind my mom. I was like 3-4 years old, it's one of my earliest really clear memories. I stopped to look at a purse or something else pretty on a display, got maybe 5-6 feet behind mom as a result - and a second later, someone had grabbed me from behind, with their hand over my mouth. Luckily, when the person swung me around I saw my cousin standing there - my "kidnapper" was my aunt, who happened to see us in the store and noticed that I was lagging behind. My mom walked maybe 10 feet or less before she noticed that I was no longer right behind her, but it was enough.

        Some of your other reasons make more sense, but saying that a parent is a failure if they lose sight of their kids at some point is really unnecessarily harsh. Ask your parents if YOU ever got away from them for a few seconds in a crowd.

      • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:09PM (#15922675) Homepage
        No matter how careful you are you can lose track of your kid at a public space. You only have to turn your your head for a second for a kid to wonder off and out of sight. Kids are short and easy to lose track of. They also have no clue about the danger of wondering off, no matter how many times you lecture them. Every good parent tries to keep track of their young children, but even the best parent can lose track of their kid, especially in a crowd.
    • Unfortunately kids aren't as stupid (or gullible?) sometimes as we'd hope. A phone like the Firefly is essentially an electronic wireless dog-leash for the parents, and the kids won't be very fond of it. They would likely "accidentally" leave it at Timmy's house, or "forget" to turn it on, etc.

      IMHO such a device, good idea as it is, has to offer something to the kids. An incentive for them to keep it on themselves and have it on. Most kids do not appreciate the need to be able to phone the cops or the par

  • Five year olds NEED cell phones, guys. Duh. How else are they going to handle buisness calls and stay in touch with family and friends when they go out on their own?
    • by jmp_nyc (895404) *
      My six month old still gets a little confused when the phone gets held to his ear and he hears a familiar voice coming from it. I think we'll hold off on buying him a cell phone until he's old enough not to use it as a teething toy. ;-)

      -JMP
    • This is a covert government program to mutate the brains of kids. The hope is that brain capacity will double, and the kids will grow up to have over sized craniums like space aliens in 1950s B movies. Murphy says that it will decrease by half. Which may suite the aims of George "Prince of Dimness" Bush just fine. [Not to be confused with Phil, "Prince of Insufficient Light"]

      To repeat an earlier point:

      Group intelligence is multiplicative when idiots are involved - combining a half-wit with another half-
  • by Jhon (241832) * on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:18PM (#15922191) Homepage Journal
    Easy. Anyone under the age of 18 -- with virtually no exception.

    In my experience, many problems with family harmony can be either traced back to cell phone use -- or cell phones helped compound the problem.

    I don't think ANYONE should have a cell phone until they are emancipated *AND* pay for the damn thing themselves.

    That said: I've seen the FireFly [fireflymobile.com] -- and T-Mobile's new "kidconnect plan" [t-mobile.com]. Both look very interesting and may force me to rethink my position.
    • i got mine when i was 15.. but then again i was working 40 hours a week and paid my own bill.. my parents objected but because i was paying for it they didnt' say anything
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nah. Cell phones once you get your license.

      Once you can drive (and with that, get stuck on the side of the road, etc), cell phones have uses.

      It's up to the parents to impress upon their kids that the phones aren't so they can yack away with their friends while driving, but rather that the phones are tools, and that their secondary purpose is social interaction.
      • Once you can drive (and with that, get stuck on the side of the road, etc), cell phones have uses.

        Once you can ride in a car, you can get stuck on the side of the road. By that argument, you should have a cellphone the moment you are old enough to go places without your parents.

        It's up to the parents to impress upon their kids that the phones aren't so they can yack away with their friends while driving, but rather that the phones are tools, and that their secondary purpose is social interaction.

        N

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:32PM (#15922326) Journal
      In my experience, many problems with family harmony can be either traced back to cell phone use -- or cell phones helped compound the problem.
      And before cell phones, those same problems could be traced to regular telephone use. And before regular phones, those same problems could be traced to the same underlying factor: kids trying to establish their independence.

      Cell phones aren't causing those problems, they are just a manifestation of other problems -- some of which are just part of the normal process of growing up/raising kids.

      Why not just lock out all numbers except 'home' and '$parentsoffice' during proscribed times? Allow general use during the time they are allowed to watch TV -- then they can choose between the two.

      Finally, one more thing -- ban cell phones from mealtimes, and from family time.

      The trick isn't to ban kids from using cell phones -- the trick is to teach them to use them considerately, responsibly, and at appropriate times.

      That said, I won't let my kids have a cell phone until they are allowed to go off and do things unsupervised -- their tween years. Then I won't feel comfortable unless I know that IF they needed to contact me, they could.

      Now, back to TFA -- I think the health concerns are probably overstated, and are for me a minor concern compared to the social and psychological well-being of my kids.
    • How silly of us to have forgotten that there was no family strife before the invention of cell phones!
    • My parents got my sister a cell phone when she was 16 and started driving on her own a few places. She did take over some of the payments when she got a part-time job the next year, but they always made sure she had it. They wanted to make sure she always had a way to reach someone in an emergency.

      Of course, they didn't think I needed anything like that. But then I didn't go out much ;)
    • In my family, cell phones were often used to defuse situations. For instance, if I or my brother were gone and my parents are worrying, they would call us on our cell phones. It was good for safety too--if there was ever a car accident or anything, we could call home and get help (this was never necessary, but good to know).
  • by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:18PM (#15922192) Journal
    Like my life on the road isn't hectic enough already with soccer moms in their SUVs changing lanes without looking because they are on the phone. Now I'm going to have to worry about running over little kids stepping away from the ice cream truck with their cellphones stuck to their heads.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Like my life on the road isn't hectic enough already with soccer moms in their SUVs changing lanes without looking because they are on the phone. Now I'm going to have to worry about running over little kids stepping away from the ice cream truck with their cellphones stuck to their heads.
      I would call that culling the herd...
    • Like my life on the road isn't hectic enough already with soccer moms in their SUVs changing lanes without looking because they are on the phone.

      This is not the fault of the phone.

      They would still do this without a phone.

      How many times have you seen some woman looking/reaching into the back seat to deal with her kid? I see that all the time. A phone is not a necessary component for vehicular asshattery.

      Now I'm going to have to worry about running over little kids stepping away from the ice crea

  • by krell (896769) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:19PM (#15922196) Journal
    Because there is no such thing as too early.
  • by Megaweapon (25185) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:20PM (#15922206) Homepage
    just stay the f*ck off my lawn!
  • WTF 8?! what does an 8 year old need a cellphone for - I had one when I was 16, and I rarely used it - most I used it for was talking to my girlfriend one my way home from work at the time, and the occasional "yo $parent i'm going to X, don't expect me till Y", and for emergencies when my buddies and I were out rock climbing (only needed to use it once for this purpose - once too many, but then 10 year old little brothers don't always listen to their dad, their older brother, and their older brothers friend
  • Why and what kind? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by andrewman327 (635952) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:21PM (#15922219) Homepage Journal
    First off, I an inclined to say that this is an ultimate waste of money. I lost so many coats as a child in Michigan that I cannot imagine having held onto a cell phone at age 6. The lost and found will gradually resemble Radioshack.


    It really depends on why you are equipping your child with a cell phone. As TFA points out, many parents are not doing it for social reasons:

    One company that has picked up on the concerns of parents is Disney Mobile. Disney Mobile was set up in the US this June and provides families with mobile phones specifically designed for "tweens, young teens and parents who want to keep an eye on them", according to the Disney Mobile Web site. Unlike standard mobile phones, these handsets feature software that allows parents to limit texts, calls and downloads, restrict phone usage and even locate their children via GPS. Their latest phone, pictured on PhoneArena, is the Disney D100 (pictured), which features a Mickey Mouse-style keypad and a picture of Winnie the Pooh on the casing -- Disney Mobile seems to be marketing itself as a family solution, aimed at concerned parents, and not directly at children.


    If a child can hold onto the phone, this could be a nice way to keep track of children. I can think of two major caveats to tracking: the aforementioned loss issue and the fact that kidnappers will search their victims for cell phones now thus in a true emergency they will not really help.

    • The lost and found will gradually resemble Radioshack.

      Since many of these phones make full use of the GPS function, the phones shouldn't stay lost for long.

    • I lost so many coats as a child in Michigan that I cannot imagine having held onto a cell phone at age 6. The lost and found will gradually resemble Radioshack.
      Yeah but it's not like you could call up your coat and say "hi this coat belongs to andrewman327 could you please be sure it gets back to him?" I'm just saying...
  • by GuruBuckaroo (833982) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:22PM (#15922233) Homepage
    the average age of a child's first cell phone was just eight years old and is expected to drop closer to 5 years of age this year.
    Man - I know they're kids, but who wants an 8-year-old cell phone? I try to get a new one every two years or so. Of course, I keep my Motorola Lugable radiophone just for kicks...
  • Who are these kids talking to? When I was 8, I would ride my bike somewhere and meet up with my friends or my parents would drop me off at their house. They definitely didn't drop me off at the mall or have me running around town thinking that the fact I had a cell phone was good enough to keep tabs on me.

    Just because your kid has a cell phone doesn't mean they are protected.
  • As a person who just graduated from High School, I can say, without absolutely without regrets, 19. God, I hate those things.
  • by Mayhem178 (920970) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:23PM (#15922244)
    If the child has not yet reached the age where they are allowed to engage in activities without parental or some other form of supervision, then they are too young to need a cell phone. Consequently, this age will probably fall somewhat in line with the legal driving age most of the time. So, ballpark figure, probably somewhere between 14 and 16 years old.

    Me, personally, I didn't get one until I was 22 and moving into my own place.
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:24PM (#15922253)
    it means being able to track them if they go missing, and it means they can call you when they do something dumb. Concentrate on raising good kids and you won't have a problem with them abusing it anyway.
  • If we microwave their little brains now, they won't be able to take our jobs whgen they grow up.

    Cell phones for all the little kiddies.

  • Every baby "goes wireless" when they get their cord cut at birth.
  • I don't even think that I used ANY phone when I was 5. Who is a 5-year old calling anyway? His stock broker? All that I can think of when I read this article is a quote from Signs:
    They should be playing furry, furry rabbit or tea party or something right?

    5-year olds with cell phones...maybe it IS the end of the world...
  • by nathan s (719490) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:27PM (#15922288) Homepage
    I think that this whole cell phone culture is pretty fascinating. I mean, a few millenia ago it was pretty common for kids to live in tribal societies where they knew and had easy access to their friends in physical space. Walk to the next hut over and talk to your friend, if you're not busy doing chores.

    In modern society, I think that social networking and technology are bringing people "virtually" closer together despite the fact that many of us now live orders of magnitude further away from our friends and even relatives than our ancestors did. So in a sense, the idea that a kid is "too young" for a cell phone really cuts to controlling that child's interactions with his or her peers. I mean, once they would have been able to physically play with their friends, but now they live 30 miles from their best friend.

    To me, it seems like it will happen anyway - we will see kids getting phones as soon as their language skills reach the point that they can appreciate having conversations with people that they can't physically interact with. Instead of restricting the phones, though, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't phones developed which allowed parents to restrict/track contacts in the same way that parents long ago would visually keep an eye on their kids.

    It's a different world, but in a way, there's nothing new under the sun again. Just technology enabling old ways of interaction to be feasible (at least in spirit) in a faster, more spread-out world.
  • School age (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:28PM (#15922292)
    It is only a decade ago, my sister worried if a responsible parent could send a kid to school without a cell phone. Today that would be unheard of, how else can the kids sort out when and where to meet their parents for home transport, changes of plans, or emergencies? By the time all three kids were going to school, that family of five had no less than seven active working phones...

    Of course, that was in Finland.

  • Yellow Journalism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:28PM (#15922297)
    Look, CNET is running an example of Yellow journalism [wikipedia.org].

    Or is it an advert for the Disney "find the kid" phone?

    I'm to lazy to find out if their sponsors are fearmongering politicians or money-grubbing marketeers.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:30PM (#15922304) Homepage
    When I was 5 years old I couldn't convince my mother to buy me a new GI Joe .... there's no flippin way I could have gotten a cell phone, even if they did exist.

    What the hell does a 5 year old need with a cell phone? Call the babysitter to tell them you'll be late because you're power lunching with Billy on some cool mudpies? Call AAA if your Big Wheel breaks down? (Assuming they still make Big Wheels ;-)

    Crap do I feel old now.
  • Funny Anectdote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot.andrewrondeau@com> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:31PM (#15922316) Homepage
    Funny Anectdote: A few weeks ago I was standing in line for Space Mountain at Disney Land. Behind me were two teenagers, brother and sister. Their phone rang, and it was their parents "just checking in." The ensuing conversation indicated how annoyed the kids were that they couldn't get a few hours of freedom away from their parents.

    It made me realize that children with cell phones never get to be completly free of their parents. Who remembers, as a child, being able to get away from over-protective parents by simply walking away from a phone? Now, as children get cell phones, over-protective parents will flip out whenever the "battery dies".

  • Thanks HaloZero [phonescoop.com].

    I think Verizon is on to something, but IMHO something like that is bound to be lost by a primary school aged kid.

    Better form factor, a watch like device or a pendant.

    With a form that is more difficult to lose, then, I can easily imagine kindergarten aged kids having one strapped to their wrist.



  • An _average_ of 5? Come on, even mode average isn't going to realistically account for this, I don't buy it. They must be looking at only those familes that have cash laying around, there are families that can't even afford cable and a computer, for crying out loud!

    Boneheads!
  • I have a nine year old son who really wants a mobile phone. I'm not willing to give him one simply because he has no real need for one. His friends all go to the same school, and if he wants to call one he just has to pick up the phone. He also has free access to the net - no filtering - but the computer is in the front room. Mobile phones also are being used as a medium to bully other kids; sending mean txt messages and generally harrasing classmates out of school as well as in school.

    As somebody with a mi
  • It use to be
    "Give me your lunch money or I well pound you"

    Now Its going to more like these

    "Give me your cell phone or I well pound you"

    It always nice to see even the school yard bully can evolve
  • by Riding Spinners (994836) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:40PM (#15922414)

    ...the problem is maturity and responsibility.

    I believe that, with current regulations in the United States, the recommended youngest age for owning a cell phone should be 18 (give or take a few years). Here's my reasoning behind this approximate age limit:

    • Those $6.99/mo. "free" ringtones that are advertised between airings of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Digimon: Digital Monsters. A responsible person (minor or not!) would see right through that deception and wouldn't even consider buying something from those deceitful advertisers. Unfortunately, there's lots of 13-year-olds who fall for it, and it can cost their parents hundreds of dollars — hundreds of dollars that aren't easily disputed!
    • Minors cannot get credit cards. For the most part, you need a credit card to buy a non-prepaid cell phone plan. Therefore, minors shouldn't operate a device that's easily abused and requires a line of credit.
    • Cell phone providers have lots of mechanisms to prevent false/mistaken charges from being made, but subscribers rarely take advantage of them. It's typically only inquired about after a little Zach Morris wannabe makes a two-hour call to Akihabara at a rate of ¥130/min.

    If you're a parent with a whiny kid who demands a cell phone, do your research. There are models out there that can be "locked in" to only allow a few phone numbers to be called. Wireless providers like Verizon [verizon.com] can change your plan so it blocks the sending and receiving of text messages (those cost up to ten cents each!). Remember: you're basically giving your kid access to your line of credit — control your kids' spending like you control your own spending!

    • Minors cannot get credit cards. For the most part, you need a credit card to buy a non-prepaid cell phone plan. Therefore, minors shouldn't operate a device that's easily abused and requires a line of credit.

      I'm kind of against getting kids cell phones in the first place, but if you must, what about a prepaid phone that uses rechargable SIM cards? Give them a 250-min card or whatever for a couple of months, with the understanding that if they run it out, they'll have to buy their own.

      -b.

  • Doesn't matter. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mustafap (452510) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:41PM (#15922427)

    Considering the crap most people feed their children, the danger of a mobile phone is a minor addition.
  • by mjh (57755) <<moc.nalcnroh> <ta> <kram>> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:51PM (#15922521) Homepage Journal
    I have 4 sons, the oldest of which is 8. For my children, there is no place that they go where they are not supervised by adults. So it's not really an issue... yet. But it soon will be. Soon, I'm going to be faced with a dillemma. On the one hand, I want them to have access to a cell phone so that they can call me if they need me. It's a safety thing.

    On the other hand, I really don't want them eating up 17x10^23 minutes every month. Nor do I want to worry about the frequency with which my kids tend to lose things. They lose things that aren't important to them. And if I gave them a device that limited their minutes and contacts (e.g. a firefly type device) then they'd probably lose it because it's just not that important to them.

    The one thing I am absolutely certain of, however, is that I do not want to see some law come in and make the decision for me. Let me decide how old is an appropriate age for my children to have a cell phone. What might be a sensible answer for my kids might not be a sensible answer for my neighbor's kids. My neighbor is a single parent mom. Her 8 year old has a cell phone. She absolutely relies on her kids ability to have a cell phone, and it seems a sensible thing for her situation. Any law, even one that tries to think of all the contingencies, will ultimately fail to account for something. This is better left to individuals to decide for themselves and leave the legislation out of it.
  • It depends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by man_ls (248470) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @04:58PM (#15922566)
    I'd say that as soon as the kid is trustworthy enough to go places without the parents, they should be given a cell phone and allowed to do as such. Of course, for some individuals, this puts the age at 18 years old when they can legally get their own, but for most, it's around the driving age.

    This has been expressed many times in this thread.

    I'm of mixed opinion about fully-qualified vs. feature-limited phones for younger people who are using them, though. How many people is Joe Twelve going to be actually calling? Sure, he might call his friends who also have cell phones, but it's unlikely he'd make very much use of the gadget if he does have it. Additionally, every single cell phone I've seen (kid-marketed or not) does have the ability to restrict various settings. I had a Qualcomm Kyocera phone that had security options such as restrict outgoing calls to numbers in the address book only, disable adding new entries to the address book, and disable the window where the phone told you its own phone number so you couldn't give it to people and tell them to call you. My Nokia has something similar, I'm pretty sure, although I haven't looked.

    These features allow you to easily cripple any phone and turn it into something akin to the LG Verizon MiGi device, except with the ability to, say, re-enable the blocked features if the owner is going away somewhere they need them. Out, for instance, with grandparents, or a friend or friend's family, where they might need to dial other people for a while.

    It would also allow the phone to be "unlocked" as the kid got older or got more responsible, or both.

    More and more people I know don't maintain landline service, or have that service in the sense that they have wires running out to their house but lines are so poor it's nearly never used. These people have cell phones as their only method of communication, and people tend to not like sharing with other people. I think it's perfectly acceptable to give a kid a feature-limited line on a family talk plan or something in these situations, at a very early age. For others, not so much.
  • by porcupine8 (816071) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:16PM (#15922724) Journal
    When I was in high school a decade ago, I never had a curfew - I just had to call my mom at a certain time, or every X hours, or whatever, to let her know I was still alive and about when I'd be home (which was never a crazy hour on a school night anyhow, I had scholar bowl practice at 6am for pete's sake!). This was easy, because there were pay phones everywhere. If I needed a ride home from an afterschool activity or from just socializing, I called her on a pay phone. Etc etc etc.

    The problem is, with the rise of cel phones, there are no more pay phones. At least, hardly any. I've tried to find one once or twice, and it's hard. As such, any teen who wants to contact their parents either has to have a cel phone or borrow a friend's. You can't even guarantee that if they're at a friend's house, there will be a landline for them to call on (or for you to call them on)! I'd definitely want my teen to have one, just because these days there is a serious lack of other options.

    That said, I agree with other posters that until the kid is old enough to be doing this kind of stuff on their own, they probably don't need one. Although the ones people have mentioned that will only call parents or emergency #s sound like they might not be a bad idea, as long as the kid knows when and how to use it responsibly.

  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TLouden (677335) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:20PM (#15922751)
    I started using a cell phone at 16. The reason, in case you haven't guessed, has to do with driving. My parents were more comfortable with me driving if I had a phone to call for help from (NOT to use while driving).

    Why an 8 year old needs a cell phone is beyond me, but if the parents want it then it's their (possibly ill informed) choice to provide it.

    I know adults who have no need for a cell phone and 14 year olds who would benefit from having one available, so a specific age is not so important (unless somebody can prove damaging effects from radiation).
  • by spasm (79260) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:37PM (#15922870) Homepage
    Five year olds need cellphones so they can call their lawyers when RIAA sues them for filesharing. Duh.
  • Back in my day (Score:3, Interesting)

    by teal_ (53392) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:35AM (#15924811)
    Back in my day, during the summer, the neighbourhood kids would all leave the house early in the morning (riding our bikes with no helmets) to go play with GIJoe or Star Wars figures in somebody's back yard, go to the comic book store (tended by an eerily similar fella as the one in The Simpsons), go play (and pirate) C64 games at somebody's house, and just be all over the place, including woods and construction sites and our parents had no idea where we were all day, nobody could reach us. Only rule is we'd have to be home by the time it was dark. I don't recall ever having someone we knew go missing or of anything awful happening to anybody, maybe we were just lucky (middle class suburbs of Chicago), but then again we weren't stupid either, we knew not to get into cars with strangers and what not. Anyway, those were the days, no worries, no responsibility, pure independence, all day.

    Give a kid a cell phone and you make them trade that experience for your own peace of mind, all of a sudden you burden them with something there. It's tough though, if I were a parent I'd be too fretful to let my kids run about like I did. Parenting must be a totally different experience now with the internet and cell phones, you're not sure who your kids are associating with. At least back then our parents knew that were were only associating with other kids more or less our age, but with the net, dunno.
  • by allanj (151784) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @02:47AM (#15925178)
    Where I live (Denmark) it's quite common for 4th or 5th graders to have cell-phones (that would be around 10 years of age). They don't call one another that much (let alone their parents unless they need a ride or something) - they use their phones to send each other text messages. Piles of them. That has become such a part of their pattern of social interaction that kids without cell phones feel left out. And quite frankly, they often are.

    Most cell phone plans nowadays feature an optional "all the SMS'es you can send for DKK99 (~$15) per month" that is VERY popular with the young crowd (and certainly their parents).

    My oldest son is in 2nd grade now, and in a few years we'll buy him a cell phone. Not for GPS tracking, partly for minor emergencies (of the "missed the bus" kind), partly for "I'm at Johnny's house" messages but the primary reason is that a cell phone is often a required device for social interaction with friends at that age. I may not like that (in fact, I don't) but the social well-being of my son is more important than my personal taste. A group of parents (myself included) have been trying to make my son's school ban cell phones from the classrooms with some success, but after school there's not much we can do about it.

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