My DD is nine, in Grade 4 and is already pestering for a mobile phone. NOT that I’m about to give her one – and her friends don’t have them, except for her best friend who is totally indulged anyway. I’ve told her that she can have one when she starts high school. But I just picked that age out of the air really and I wondered what is the right age to give your child a mobile? When do most kids get them nowadays?
Wow – grade four and wanting a mobile? If her friends don’t have one yet, then who is she going to call?? Or does she want one in order to play games and take photos … in which case maybe an iPod touch or something else would do instead?
With regards to your first question, Tessa, I don’t know whether there is a “right” age for kids to have a mobile phone, but I have asked Michael Carr-Gregg for some input. Michael is a psychologist specialising in the area of parenting adolescents and adolescent mental health. He is the author of numerous books, including ‘Real Wired Child’.
“Firstly, age doesn’t define maturity,” says Michael. “I always advise parents to ask themselves three questions when deciding whether their child is mature enough to have a mobile phone:
1. Firstly, given the fact that the greatest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, parents should ask themselves whether their child has a good track record of making good decisions and behaving responsibly.
2. Secondly, do they hang out with kids who are responsible?
3. Thirdly, are their children risk takers – are they sensation seekers?
If the answers to those questions are no, no and yes respectively, then the child does not have the cognitive maturity to handle this technology in a responsible way.”
Tessa, with regards to your second question, according to data from Roy Morgan Research’s ‘Young Australian Survey’, almost one quarter of Australian children aged six to twelve have a mobile phone, increasing to sixty percent of thirteen year olds. So your hunch about when they start high school is probably correct. Interestingly, while kids’ phones are marketed to parents as a safety device, kids are primarily interested in the look and brand of their phone. Or in other words, what The Australia Institute terms “competitive consumption.”
Your third question is “are they safe?” and the jury seems to be still out on that one. Various reports pop up in the media from time to time in relation to various potential health risks, but to quote from the government’s Australian Communications and Media Authority :
Based on substantiated scientific research, and to protect the public from the potential heating effects of electromagnetic energy, the ACMA has implemented regulatory arrangements built on the mandatory standard setting human exposure limits to radiofrequency EME. The general consensus of scientific opinion is that, provided mobile phones do not exceed the limits of recognised standards, there will be no harmful effects.
You can read more here.
And Tess, a final, morale-boosting comment from Michael Carr-Gregg:
“I have never understood why any parent on the planet would buy a child aged under twelve a mobile phone," he says. "Sure, there may be times when it’s useful for you to be able to telephone your child, such as when they go on a school excursion, or perhaps family access visits or something like that, but in those instances then lend them a generic family mobile phone; I’m talking a really inexpensive, basic phone that can make and receive calls and nothing else.”
EB Readers: At what age do you intend to allow your kids to have a mobile phone?