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What age should people get their first cell phones?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:37 am
by Ghost Land
We last had a thread on this topic in June of last year, and there were some interesting responses, from technophobes arguing "basically never" to technophiles finding anything as young as 3 acceptable. At this point, it is impossible to argue that cell phones have not greatly modified our Western society, and they are starting to pervade in less-developed countries such as India and some African countries now as well. People in favour of giving children cell phones early point to advantages of staying connected, though people on the other side view many of those advantages as disadvantages, noting decreased face-to-face social time and the problems posed by unrestricted Internet access.

I am more on the side of the technophobes myself. An eight-year-old is almost certainly too immature to use such a device responsibly, especially considering the extent of all kinds of nasty stuff on the Internet (pornography, scams/phishing, and extremely violent games, for example), and considering even grown adults up to their 70s often have problems with addiction to their phones, it doesn't make sense to me to start kids down that path that early. (Then again, I had my first computer of my own, which was a really old laptop that was really cool to me at the time, but still very primitive, the summer before second grade. I don't even think it had Internet access, and I ended up rendering it unusable in about three months anyway as I compressed a bunch of system files, not knowing what I was doing, and wrecked it for myself. I'm also one to talk about seeing bad stuff online, as I learned swear words from the Internet at age eight, and walked into fourth grade armed with a whole bunch of words I had now been turned on to, but thankfully knew better than to use around adults. I even kept a spreadsheet ranking the words I found most offensive, with the "F" word in second or third place behind "oh my God".)

A cell phone can be a useful tool; it can also be a highly addictive substance with deleterious effects on its heaviest users, which I see a lot of in today's society. When I was in elementary school, I saw another kid's phone out once at best in all five years. In middle and high school, however, they were everywhere, and I often found it hard to carry on a conversation with people because the majority of their focus was on whatever they were doing on that screen: playing a game, texting/messaging, etc. It drove me nuts! I saw my generation as a whole transform basically from children into phone zombies, barely being able to make it five minutes in a conversation without pulling it out and texting someone, and no wonder my generation is so anxious and neurotic now. Our social lives are based on the number of likes we get from posts on Instagram!

Given my own experiences on the matter, I don't think it's prudent to give a kid a cell phone at an age of single digits certainly. I still see cell phones, particularly smartphones, as a want instead of a need, so my policy would probably be along the lines of "when you can pay for it yourself". If my 17-year-old wants one and can pay for one with minimal financial assistance, I'd be likely to let him or her buy one, though I would not force one on him or her if she did not want one. If my 11-year-old comes up to me with the "...but all of my friends have one!" excuse and nothing else, I'd take that a sign that he or she is still to young to have one. The "emergency contact" line is referencing events that are extremely rare in First World societies, especially before one starts driving him/herself around to and from places; besides, in my area, virtually every classroom still has a telephone in it anyway, and most teachers would, if something happens or a student needs get a ride home now, be more than happy to let a student use their phone. That's what worked for me just fine, even in high school.

Also keep in mind that prior to 1983 there literally were not commercially available cell phones, and they were still pretty rare in the hands of everyday people until the mid-90s. Most of us who were around in the 60s and 70s made it through those decades just fine without cell phones.

What say ye, NSG?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:41 am
by Mirial Magna
I'd say when they start working, because it is actually somewhat handy to have a computer that can fit in your pocket.

So probably either 16-17 or 18-20.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:43 am
by Ghost Land
Mirial Magna wrote:I'd say when they start working, because it is actually somewhat handy to have a computer that can fit in your pocket.

So probably either 16-17 or 18-20.

I would tend to agree with this. I would also sit down and explain appropriate uses for this very powerful technology, such as to keep in touch with family and friends, but not as a distraction while eating dinner with family at the table.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:48 am
by Rojava Free State
I got my first phone when I was in 8th grade. I think I was 14 at the time, but man that changed my life forever.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:51 am
by Earthbound Immortal Squad
It depends really on circumstance. But there is no way on Earth I would give a child a phone before at least 7. I would consider giving a basic phone e.g a Nokia brick around the primary school age if necessary, e.g if they would need to contact you to get home. A proper smart phone definitely not before secondary school age (11 years old). Even during the earlier years I wouldn't think of getting a really expensive phone as the chances of it being lost, broken, stolen, etc are quite high and yes I have quite a low opinion of teenagers at school on the whole but my experiences warrant that judgement. Beyond that it's their choice completely.

I'd also argue that if a child gets a phone too young it either distracts them or worse isolates them from basic social interaction with others which I have seen the effects of that on a few people I semi know.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:53 am
by The New California Republic
Negative numbers. Throw one in the womb.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:54 am
by Ghost Land
Earthbound Immortal Squad wrote:It depends really on circumstance. But there is no way on Earth I would give a child a phone before at least 7. I would consider giving a basic phone e.g a Nokia brick around the primary school age if necessary, e.g if they would need to contact you to get home. A proper smart phone definitely not before secondary school age (11 years old). Even during the earlier years I wouldn't think of getting a really expensive phone as the chances of it being lost, broken, stolen, etc are quite high and yes I have quite a low opinion of teenagers at school on the whole but my experiences warrant that judgement. Beyond that it's their choice completely.

I'd also argue that if a child gets a phone too young it either distracts them or worse isolates them from basic social interaction with others which I have seen the effects of that on a few people I semi know.

AGREED. I've seen it firsthand. The entirety of high school for me seemed to be "now is she really listening to me if she has her phone in her hand and most of her responses are 1-2 syllables?"

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:58 am
by Belkhomir
Ghost Land wrote:
Earthbound Immortal Squad wrote:It depends really on circumstance. But there is no way on Earth I would give a child a phone before at least 7. I would consider giving a basic phone e.g a Nokia brick around the primary school age if necessary, e.g if they would need to contact you to get home. A proper smart phone definitely not before secondary school age (11 years old). Even during the earlier years I wouldn't think of getting a really expensive phone as the chances of it being lost, broken, stolen, etc are quite high and yes I have quite a low opinion of teenagers at school on the whole but my experiences warrant that judgement. Beyond that it's their choice completely.

I'd also argue that if a child gets a phone too young it either distracts them or worse isolates them from basic social interaction with others which I have seen the effects of that on a few people I semi know.

AGREED. I've seen it firsthand. The entirety of high school for me seemed to be "now is she really listening to me if she has her phone in her hand and most of her responses are 1-2 syllables?"



It's too late for me, brothers! Save yourselves!

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:00 am
by Agarntrop
11 or 12

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:07 am
by Page
I had my first phone when I was 11 back in the ancient times where flip-phones existed and you had to write texts on the number pad.

I don't have or want kids but the answer to when I would give a hypothetical kid a phone is the same as when I would let them get piercings or have a pet, as soon as I believed they were mature enough to take care of it.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:23 am
by Satuga
Honestly it depends on the circumstances you find yourself in, if your kid has to walk to the bus stop or school on their own, give them a god damn phone. Or even if you're away for a long time while your child is still home, give them a phone. Me personally however I think no matter what a child should have a phone at least by 7th or 8th grade, mostly because I know for a fact that it's likely your kid will at least get teased about not having a phone.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:24 am
by Ifreann
The New California Republic wrote:Negative numbers. Throw one in the womb.

Genetically engineer humans to grow telephony organs. Become one with the phone.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:29 am
by Radiatia
I got my first cell phone when I was 14 and it was basically a brick. You could call people with it, unless you walked under a bridge or into a field or basically anywhere that wasn't within a 10m radius of one of the only two cell phone towers in existence at the time. SMS was still a new invention back then.

I think 14 was a fine age to get one, though. I feel that modern technology like Smartphones, etc. does complicate things but ultimately anything younger than 13 or 14 would be a bit too young in my view.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:06 am
by Pax Nerdvana
I don't have kids, but if/when I do, they're not getting phones until they're responsible enough. As a general rule of thumb, I would say ages 15-17 would be the youngest acceptable age. That's the age when kids are getting jobs and driver's licenses, and a phone could be useful. I only got a smartphone in 2017, so maybe I'm not the best source.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:09 am
by Cameroi
pre-partum. while they are still in the womb. to relieve the bordem of being all cramped up in there.
provided of course this is at no cost to their parents.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:11 am
by Kannap
Didn't get my first cell phone until... middle school... I think? Or was it freshman year of high school? It was one of those slide out keyboard phones, so I think that was middle school. I think freshman year of high school was my first smartphone. Something like that.

Looking back, I personally can't imagine why I'd have ever needed a cell phone before then. However, they're quite more advanced and have a lot more uses now so I could understand why a younger age may be appropriate.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:24 am
by Diopolis
I think 16ish is a good lower bound on having a smartphone. Dumb phones could go a little younger, but it depends on the kid. I definitely think if you're driving and or working, you can be trusted with a phone.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:28 am
by Aureumterra
In the modern era, having a cell phone is your main way of communication with friends, like it or not. As such, it’s important to get one early on, around 12 or 11

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:36 am
by Geneviev
It should be whenever they first need a cell phone. Usually, that would be when they aren't around their parents as much, so maybe about 8 or 9 years old. I got my cell phone when I started singing in a choir, and I don't think it was too early.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:36 am
by Ethel mermania
When the person can pay for it theirownselves

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:37 am
by Kannap
Aureumterra wrote:In the modern era, having a cell phone is your main way of communication with friends, like it or not. As such, it’s important to get one early on, around 12 or 11


If they're not writing letters in cursive to their friends then what are they even doing?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:38 am
by Kannap
Geneviev wrote:It should be whenever they first need a cell phone. Usually, that would be when they aren't around their parents as much, so maybe about 8 or 9 years old. I got my cell phone when I started singing in a choir, and I don't think it was too early.


Mine was when I had band rehearsals, cross country, and other extracurricular activities. Checks out.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:38 am
by Kannap
Ethel mermania wrote:When the person can pay for it theirownselves


I've been needing a new cell phone for two years, thinking about sending the bill to you Ethel.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:39 am
by Geneviev
Kannap wrote:
Geneviev wrote:It should be whenever they first need a cell phone. Usually, that would be when they aren't around their parents as much, so maybe about 8 or 9 years old. I got my cell phone when I started singing in a choir, and I don't think it was too early.


Mine was when I had band rehearsals, cross country, and other extracurricular activities. Checks out.

It's better than just assigning an age.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:40 am
by Kiruri
Im 23. I feel like I grew up at the start of cellphone usage for kids and like during the boom where it was more common to have 'em in general. I got my first cellphone at 10 or 11 ish. As soon as I started middle school (6th grade). By 7th grade all the cool kids had cellphones and at the start of high school most everyone had them. I think I may have been part of the early adopters because I specifically remember the automatic status boost at school the first time I got a cellphone.

I think I may have had a Motorola Razr but can't quite remember now. I know that by 8th grade I had an Iphone. Anyways, I am most certainly in the group of people who think 10/11 year olds are more than capable of cellphone usage. At the start of middle school I think would be an OK time to award your offspring a cellphone.

TBH, though, children now are brought up in such a technological environment that they are bound to bump into tablets or phones and learn how to use them before they even start schooling. I have a cousin who's 4 years old and knows his way around using a tablet just about as well as anyone nowadays. It's only a short while before they start nagging their parents for a cellphone.

I think the matter isn't setting up a min. age, I think the matter relies on how kid's parents parent them about technology and how they monitor their usage. More parental control should be used the younger the child with a strict limit on how much time they get to spend with anything technology which should be relaxed progressively as they age. I would consider anything lower than 10 years for a cellphone a bit irresponsible.