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Old enough for a smart phone?

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It was the sight of all the Year Six pupils leaving school that got me thinking. Like most of the school kids and parents, they were gathered for an impromptu celebration. Everyone was gathered to mark the start of the summer holidays but the Year Six pupils were also saying goodbye to their primary school years.

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The sight of some Year Six school kids posing and taking pictures got me wondering what the appropriate age is to give a child a smart phone.

Two things struck me about the Year Six children. Firstly, their shirts were covered in graffiti.

This happened when I left secondary school, not primary school. Of course, back in those days primary school kids didn’t wear uniform. It’s not that surprising the tradition has been adopted by 11-year-olds who.

The real difference, however, happened about 20 minutes after this gathering got underway. Slowly but surely, smart phones started appearing and the Year Six kids began taking pictures of each other; memories to keep of their final day at primary school.

The sight of 11-year-old children, each of them with several hundred pounds worth of smart phone (mobile phone, cell phone, call it what you will) was the second difference to my younger days. I know it’s generally accepted that kids of this age have their own phone, but will Mrs Adams and I allow it when our own offspring reach this age?

It opens up so many questions: Should 11-year-old have smart phones? Is it necessary? What is an acceptable age for a child to have a mobile? Why do they need one?

I got talking to a dad about this. His daughter was one of the Year Six leavers. By chance, he was minding his kids’ phone while she was hanging out with friends.

He showed me the phone and explained his daughter was allowed one because of the Find My iPhone feature.

“It’s great,” he said, “we always know where she is and she doesn’t know it’s on her phone.”

Back to the question: What is an appropriate age is for a child to have their own phone? My eight-year-old daughter tells me a girl in her class had her own smart phone. Personally, I can think of no reason why a kid of that age needs one.

The people I really feel for are teachers. Us adults are bad enough, constantly taping on our phones. Imagine what a group of kids must be like?

I know most schools either ban them or insist they are handed in to the school office during the day. Even so, I’m sure some kids break the rules (and probably quite a few of the teachers as well).

Mrs Adams has previously said she expects our kids to be teenagers before they have their own phones. I doubt we’ll be able to hold out that long, but I definitely want their age to be in double figures.

Helen has already been asking when she can have one. Thus far it’s been an outright “no” and she’s accepted it. By the time Helen’s in Year Five or Six, I suspect it’ll be harder to stick to such a firm line.

Of course, once Helen has one, Izzy, her younger sister will want one too. This parenting thing, it’s not always easy is it?

Do your children have smart phones? If so, what age are they and when did you let them, have one? Also, do you think the Find My iPhone argument makes sense?

12 thoughts on “Old enough for a smart phone?”

  1. Our year 6 leaver has a iPhone. It is an old one that we don’t need. She has it because she’s going to be getting a school bus every day for secondary school and so we want to be able to contact her.

    1. Now there is an argument that when a kid starts making their own way to school, they should have a phone. I understand this. Question is, do you think she knows about the Find My iPhone function?

  2. When it comes to screen time I’m really laid back and as a result have 2 kids who haven’t got much interest. BUT when it comes to smartphones I know I’ll be super strict Mum! Once they are teenagers I don’t mind so much, but not before that and I wouldn’t allow them to take them to school. If it’s for safety they can have a cheap phone in the bottom of their bags but it won’t be a smart phone. I sound like mean Mm, I promise I’m not. I just really don’t want my children’s lives revolving around technology! I also have a no tv or devices in bedrooms rule :-/

    1. I worry that a smart phone is too tempting a distraction for kids. In fact I heard of one school that banned phones altogether on the grounds that they aren’t really much of a safety device. And no, you don’t sound like a mean mum at all! These things have to be considered and thought about.

  3. This is a topic that comes up with us regularly. Fidget is only 5 but keeps asking when she can have a phone. It’s easy to put her off at the moment with the phradec “not until you’re a big girl.” But I’m dreading the time when she introduces peer pressure into the equation. I would want her wait until she has left primary, but I think we’ll be up against it with that one. Great post, John.

    1. Thanks David. Yeah, up until peer pressure kicks in it should be straightforward. Once it does, I think it will be very hard to say no.

  4. I’m currently battling with this challenge, trying to come to conclusion if my teenager needs a cell phone yet. Actually, I realize the need to get her one to attend to various challenging school work (online researches) but just not okay to find out later if she eventually check out some explicit contents online. Somehow, even if she doesn’t do this intentionally, chances are some crazy ads will present her with contents.

    1. Yes, that’s another issues: well-behaved children inadvertently seeing something online they shouldn’t. Very best of luck dealing with this. I’d love to know what decision you ultimately make.

  5. This is an interesting post. With a plethora of apps on the market aimed at children to keep them occupied, parents are using tablet devices to replace toys and while these can be educational, it’s important to be in control and research the features of a phone or smart device, it would be worth researching technology which can help to child proof phones so they can be used safely!

      1. There’s a whole bunch apps out there for this, not to mention some router based solutions… we use an app called Kidslox now, which does a pretty good job, but we tried some others before that and there are some bad ones too. A guide/summary of the best ones (and those to avoid) would be great!

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