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What age should kids get a mobile phone?

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#1 daviesjv

Posted 03 March 2011 - 10:10 AM

Is there a right age to give your child a mobile phone? How young is too young? And are they really bad for your health?

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?


Hi Tessa,

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  :

The weight of national and international scientific opinion is that there is no substantiated evidence that using a mobile phone causes harmful health effects. Although there have been studies reporting biological effects at low levels, there has been no indication that such effects might constitute a human health hazard, even with long-term exposure.
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?

#2 Snagglepussed

Posted 03 March 2011 - 10:13 AM

Dr Charlie Teo's kids do not have a phone - he is adamant they will not ..... so that's enough for me!

My DD (9) begs for a phone and an ipod touch as ALL her class have them and she is the LOSER!

I have told her that if her popularity is hinged on having either of those items then her peers have some serious issues! LOL

Ideally - I will wait until she is in high school and NEEDS it for communicating with ME or her FATHER in an emergency! Before then.....no way!

#3 daviesjv

Posted 03 March 2011 - 11:27 AM

It is easier to build up a child than repair an adult. Your words and actions have power in your child's life, use them wisely!

That's beautiful!

#4 Hayleymumof3

Posted 03 March 2011 - 11:44 PM

I feel into a trap when my DD wanted her ears pierced.  I told her she would be allowed to get them done as soon as she was old enough to decide for herself(she was 4 at the time she asked).  At 8 she said mum I am old enough and Grandma has said she will get them done for my Birthday.  

This time they will get a phone when I think they are ready and that may not be until that are 15/16 and have a job and can pay for it themselves.

#5 naturalista

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:03 AM

QUOTE (daviesjv @ 03/03/2011, 01:10 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
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?

(my bold)

Lucky kid - I'd love to be able to treat myself to one of these!

#6 daviesjv

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:18 PM

True, Naturalista. I didn't mean to make it sound as though she should have either as a matter of course!!

#7 BadCat

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:23 PM

I don't think kids need mobile phones.  At all.  Ever.

My kids will get one when they have a job and are ready to provide one for themselves and pay the associated costs.

#8 Guest_cathode_*

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:27 PM

QUOTE (Girolama @ 03/03/2011, 08:13 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Dr Charlie Teo's kids do not have a phone - he is adamant they will not ..... so that's enough for me!

Yeah, actually they do have a mobile, just with rules - like any responsible parent. He gets them to use the speaker phone on them. Can't be bothered finding links, they are all on the mobile phone causes cancer thread from last year.

At what age do you intend to allow your kids to have a mobile phone?
When a teenager.

eta.. first link I came across on google.

''If the question is do I believe that mobile phones can cause brain cancer, the answer is yes, I do,'' Aussie neurosurgeon Dr Charles Teo told 60 Minutes. ''I'm incredibly worried, concerned, depressed at the number of kids I'm seeing coming in with brain tumours.''

For his own kids and everyone else, Teo fervently recommends the use of speaker-phones.


Edited by cathode, 04 March 2011 - 12:29 PM.

#9 Soontobegran

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:29 PM

I can't get my head around the reason a child would need a mobile phone in primary school huh.gif
I don't care that everyone else may have them---a pre teen is not old enough to be responsible for one.
Our children got theirs when they could buy them and pay their bills!

#10 Snagglepussed

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:30 PM

Oooh thanks for that Cathode, I didn't realise that! Although they are quite old now I think!

In any case I just don't see the necessity for them! Their entire lives will be technologically driven!

it's a bit like the laptops in Year 9! They still have to sit their HSC which is a WRITTEN exam...... (just off on a tangent here sorry)

Edited by Girolama, 04 March 2011 - 12:31 PM.

#11 MsCharles

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:31 PM

QUOTE (*2blondies* @ 04/03/2011, 10:23 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My kids will get one when they have a job and are ready to provide one for themselves and pay the associated costs.


#12 kikinz82

Posted 04 March 2011 - 12:38 PM

A child should get a mobile phone when they can afford to buy one!

#13 mumtojanda

Posted 04 March 2011 - 07:31 PM

My 9 year old has a $29 phone and $30 credit to last 6 months.  He has it as he walks 300 m to school and has it for an emergency.

#14 Pearson

Posted 04 March 2011 - 07:33 PM

I bought my son the crappiest phone, it texts and rings, ooo and it has a torch!  I cost $20, the sim cost $2, the $20 credit will last 365 days on the voda plan we are on.
It is on silent, DS is to check each afternoon to see if we have text him.  He has been told not to answer the phone when it is ringing unless it says mum or dad, or nanna home.  these are the 3 numbers that are programmed into it.  It is there for when we may be running a little late, or if we are in a different car, and just need to reassure him.  DH works 2 blocks from DS school, so he knows he is not far at any time just the traffic can be bad.  DS is 10, but I also think that he needs to learn the resposibility while we are close at hand, before he has to travel further for schooling when he gets to high school.

#15 galba

Posted 04 March 2011 - 07:55 PM

My 2 boys (11 and 9) both have phones.  They are at a private school which is not local so they get the public bus home and are latch-key kids for approx 1hr every afternoon.  They didn't ask for phones, I gave them in case of emergencies.  They are able to contact me and I can contact them.  My mum, who lives overseas, often checks up on them to make sure they are ok.

I made sure that the phones did not have cameras on them so that they cannot take inappropriate photos that could be distributed.  None of their friends have phones so there is no-one for them to call.

Six months ago, when university was just a sparkle in my eye, I would have been horrified to think of my children with phones at such a young age.  Circumstances dictated differently.

ETA - the phones were $24 from Vodafone and as I am on the same network, the calls cost nothing.

Edited by galba, 04 March 2011 - 07:57 PM.

#16 Guest_SaritumelyPrivetia_*

Posted 04 March 2011 - 08:00 PM

I got my oldest DS one when he started high school and was walking to and from school and going to cricket training etc, so that he could contact me in case of emergency, or if the cricket was running early or late.  I also like to be able to reach him if I'm the one running late or similar.

I doubt if he's made 10 calls on it in nearly 3 years now.

In fact, I'm not sure where it is...


It was a supercheap model, and I got a $29 prepaid charge credit that lasts a year.

#17 Coconae

Posted 04 March 2011 - 08:03 PM

You will find that most kids don't speak on their phones only text, so even speaker phone usage would be limited.

#18 hilltopmum

Posted 05 March 2011 - 07:02 PM

My DD is in GRade 4 and HAS a mobile phone on Prepaid - registered in my name. She uses it for when she is walking home from the bus of an afternoon, or if the bus is late she will ring.

She only has 3 numbers programmed- Home, Mine and DH.

When she runs out of credit she will need to do chores to earn the money for the new credit.

#19 Jess1

Posted 06 March 2011 - 10:56 AM

I've just given my nearly 12 year old a mobile phone, previously he was given it now and then when he rode to the shops or to a friends house.

It is a cheap pre paid phone that I top up when needed up to $20 per month and if he goes through that then he has to use his pocket money.  He catches the bus now so I really wanted him to have one for emergencies.  If he shows maturity with this phone then I would be willing to get him a more expensive one later on and so far it has been great.  He hasn't come close to going over his limit and hasn't lost it yet!  But then the phone is very cheap so doesn't do any of the cool things a smart phone does, if I got him one of those it could be a very different story!

#20 hollyruby

Posted 07 March 2011 - 11:04 AM

my 10 year old has one as well. its my old one and i gave it to her to make me feel better. its only used if she has a sleep over or is at school late for a sporting event so i know she can call if needed. to date, she has not used it.  when i was a kid i always had money in my pocket for a payphone ................. do they even exist these days? the only one close to school is usually vandalised and smelling of urine.............

#21 catiejay

Posted 09 March 2011 - 01:02 PM

I am getting my dd a phone for her 9th birthday.  I'll get her one with a camera, qwerty keypad and one she can put music on.  She can take photos etc and send them to Grandma & Pop.  She can lie on her bed and listen to music and chill out.  She can send messages to Grandma & Pop and Nanna.  I don't see the harm in it at all.  In fact I think it's good for them to have a way to contact parents if they're on a play date/sleepover for comfort and safety reasons.  

#22 thebarnwellb4

Posted 09 March 2011 - 01:06 PM

I wouldn't give my child a phone until at least they were in High school. That being said my 6 year old is pestering us for one now.

#23 hollysmama

Posted 13 March 2011 - 12:03 PM

I personally think when they can afford to buy it and pay the bills themselves.  I think they are counter-productive.

But I know I'll cave into the pressure and probably buy one for my daughter when she's in high school, but with minimal credit for emergencies only.

#24 lishermide

Posted 13 March 2011 - 12:10 PM

I bought cheap prepaid mobiles for my girls when they started having to travel 45 mins on the bus to school each day. The youngest was in Year 2. Its not a dedicated school bus, and it gave me comfort knowing they could call me if they felt the need. It also means I can contact them ifi need, for example if I'm going to pick them up at a different stop.

DD#1 had hers upgraded to an iPhone at Christmas as her grandfather had upgraded & gave the old one to her.

Both girls really only text. It's rare for them to actually call me. They have limits on what they're allowed to do, and we've had no problems so far. I'm happy with my decision to let them have mobiles.

#25 L&E

Posted 13 March 2011 - 01:07 PM

My 9 year old has use of a phone when needed. We give it to him for school and when he goes for a ride etc. He catches the bus so we felt it was useful. It was $30 and we got $20 credit & bonus credit of $50 on a 365 plan. We keep it and give it to him as needed.

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