After much thought and deliberation, and even more pleading on my daughter’s part, this last year I caved and bought my (then) nearly 12 year old daughter a cell phone. It came down to this: as her independence grew, I needed a way to contact her at all times, and a way for her to contact me should she need anything. And while I now grumble over my nearly doubled phone bill, and the fact that she is more than likely to be hunched over it texting (thank goodness for unlimited texting plans) rather than making emergency phone calls, I am still of the opinion that I made the right decision. It has been a lifesaver when I’ve had to pick her up from school. I can simply text her and let her know where I am parked. And when she is at her dad’s house, we are still able to communicate through a quick text or phone call. And since she is now able to stay home on her own when I need her to, it’s comforting to know that she is only a phone call away.
Apparently I’m not alone in this decision about whether the age of 12 is old enough for a cell phone. In a study done just last year, 58% of 12 year olds now own a cell phone, a sharp rise from only 18% in 2004. Referred to as the iGen (or whatever they are planning on calling this group of technologically advanced youngsters), kids 12 and younger seem to have an advanced understanding of the internet and all things electronic. With the starting age of cell phone users getting younger and younger, it makes sense. After all, they were born into an era when everything seems to be centered on technology. And with the influx of smart phones, this truth has only been magnified. I read recently that teens spend about 7 hours a day on the internet. School takes up a good majority of their day, so it’s safe to say that the rest of their time is spent on the net. Knowing how my iPhone has been both a blessing and a curse for being able to peruse the web any time I want, I’m certain that this is the also the reason for the rise in internet usage among the younger generation. Note: While my daughter owns a simple smart phone to make texting easier, I have headed off the internet usage (and thereby, the internet charges) by simply rerouting her network on her phone so that it dials up an imaginary network – bringing her to an error page rather than anything on the net. Another option with many companies is to set limits on your child’s phone if you don’t wish them to connect to the internet, or to rack up hundreds of dollars in 10 cent texts that mostly consist of “lol”. kk?
But, as many parents still wonder, is 12 still too young to be connected at the hip 24/7? And being that I’ve even seen kids as young as 5 with their own cell phones, as well as parents of 14 year olds who believe their child is still too young for that kind of responsibility, it makes me wonder – when is the right age to carry a cell phone? And besides making phone calls, should a kid’s cell phone also be able to connect to the internet?