How Young is Too Young for a Smartphone?

Ten years ago, if a friend asked for a child’s number, home phone numbers were exchanged. Texting a person was almost unheard of, and cellphones were reserved for busy adults and a few lucky teens.  However, the next few years saw a technological boom, and today it is rare for someone to even have a home phone in addition to a personal cellphone. The question five years ago concerned how old a child ought to be when they get their first cellphone, but now it has moved from the cellphone to the smartphone.

Simply put, smartphones are cellphones with all the features of a computer. As a smartphone is carried around everywhere, it can even be preferable to the large desktop. With the iPhone’s launch in 2007, smartphones have become increasingly common to see in middle schools and even as young as elementary schools, showing that the ideal age for a child to receive a smartphone is becoming ever younger. While a basic phone that texts and calls is perfectly acceptable for them to own, it is absolutely unnecessary for pre-teens to have a smartphone.

Children, many who are still not out of elementary school, are glued constantly to their personal phones. But children who are as far as second grade are still barely literate, so buying elementary students something like a smartphone when they can barely send a text message is nothing but a waste of money for the parents and only enables the child to become addicted to their cellphone screens.

For parents, the cellphone is a way to keep their children safe and easily reached. This is a good thing, as some single-parents can work an hour away from home and need instant communication with their children. With a phone, a child who is accidentally locked out of the house when nobody is home can immediately text or call a family member for help.

However, although these factors support the stance that young children should have cellphones, they do not endorse the argument that they should have a smartphone. It isn’t until children reach high school that they become more involved in after-school activities and last-minute events, giving them less time to spend stuck staring at the screens of their phones. Teenagers are more responsible and more likely to take care of their phones than 12-year-olds and grade-school students.

Children under 13 do not need a cell-phone for anything more than texting or calling their parents. All the other add-ons that come with a smartphone, such as Internet access or games, are not even necessary for adults. Yes, these things are very useful, and it is difficult to live without the entire world at one’s fingertips. But does a 9-year-old need to be carrying around an iPhone 5c all day at school, where it can be easily lost, damaged or stolen?