A couple of weeks ago, my daughter sat with me and designed her first mobile phone. She chose a red cover, patterned with skulls (because she is a self professed Tom Boy) and we picked 12 numbers, including 999, that we felt were appropriate for her to have. The 1stfone has no screeen, only pre-programmed numbers, so there are no games, no internet and no apps. It is simply a phone that makes and receives calls. A week later, her 1stfone arrived and a huge debate opened up amongst our family and friends. The overriding question we have been asking ourselves is:
When it comes to mobile phones, how young is ‘too young’?
I was keen to find out what people thought about my eight year old daughter owning a mobile phone. Was it necessary? Was it a ‘sign of the times’? Or was it a pointless piece of equipment, no more than a novelty toy, and something that would end up buried in a drawer some time soon? The resulting debate was divided, and I have to say that I am also divided in my opinion too.
- On the one side, I have friends who have already given their eight year olds mobile phones. I was advised to ditch the phone with no games or internet because that is clearly what an eight year old wants from a phone. I have to disagree with this- my daughter has a DS which she can play games on, and a tablet which she uses to go online.
- I have friends who have given and taken away phones, following embarrassing prank calls. I was asked whether I trusted my daughter to have the 999 button on her phone and my answer was yes. I had spoken to her about the correct uses of the 999 button (having a grandad who was a firefighter helps here!) and there is the option to decline a 999 button on the 1stfone if you would rather.
- I have friends who have given their 8 year olds smartphones. To me, this is incredible. The reason why these children own i-phones? To access Facebook and to text their friends. And so began an entirely new debate. Sign of the times? It doesn’t have to be though, does it?
To use a really exaggerated anaology, the preschooler loves toy cars. We’re not about to let him drive a real car though, are we?
- One friend remarked that an eight year old does not need a phone at all. Who would they call, and for what reason? I have to say that this was pretty much my stance too. My eight year old is always either with me, or with a responsible adult who can contact me if the time arises. There shouldn’t really be occasions where she needs to call me, or anyone else.
- Another friend told me that eight year olds with mobile phones is just one more sign that we are forcing/ allowing our children to grow up too quickly. This was counter-balanced with the argument that kids are way more technology savvy than we were at their age, and owning a mobile phone is just a natural consequence of this.
So where do I stand? Being half way through our 1stfone trial period, I am still in two minds. But here is what I do know:
- My daughter loves her 1stfone. It’s arrival made her happy.
- My daughter has had occasion to use her phone- she walked her friend home four doors down and instead of waiting at the end of the path for her, she called me when she was setting off back home. I can see this being a regular occurance over the summer holidays.
- My daughter has her phone but it does NOT have her. True, on the first night she had it she insisted it should go beside her bed incase someone called her (!) but since then it has not been on her mind too much. It stays in my bag and she has it if we, her parents, decide she needs it. For example, if we go to the large town library she can browse her books in peace and we can call her to locate her when we’re ready to leave. She does not spend hours a day texting her friends or browsing Facebook.
- I can see future occasions where the 1stfone will be handy. I know that we will use it more as she gets older. That said, I also know that when her friends start to get phones, she will probably want to upgrade.
This is just a review of my initial thoughts on the 1stfone (a more detailed review of ordering the phone and using it will follow shortly) and I really wanted to get an idea of what YOU think. Am I being a little behind the times not giving my eight year old a smart phone like some of her friends have? Or do you think that there is no need for a child to have any kind of phone, full stop? How young is too young?
We were sent a 1stfone hand set and given one month’s free trial. All opinions are my own.