Are smartphones a dumb move for grade-schoolers?

My eight-year-old thinks he should have a smartphone so he can play Minecraft whenever he wants. I think that he shouldn’t have a smartphone because then he will play Minecraft whenever he wants.

Back in my day, a kid that age would call his friends on tin can “phones” attached by a string. (OK, maybe that wasn’t my day, but I sure did see that on reruns from the ’60s a lot.)

And back in my day, it was character building to sit and wait in a panic, with no phone in sight, when a parent was late picking you up from the bus.

Nonetheless, it seems I am way out of step with trendsetters in the children’s fashion world, who find it not only desirable but essential that my five-year-old’s winter coat have a cellphone pocket. (What five-year-old doesn’t have a need for a cellphone? It leaves me to wonder where he’s going to store his car keys and his cigarettes when he’s out on the slopes.)

But seriously, I do resent being nudged toward completely immersing my kids in the world of iPhones, Androids, iPads and Nintendo 3DSes before they’ve even formed a proper sense of what intersection they live near. They barely understand how to talk into a phone when it isn’t in speaker mode, which other parents tell me is now a grave epidemic among today’s under-10 set. The last thing we need is autocomplete messing with their newfound spelling ability.

But the products keep coming. There are little gloves for four-year-olds with touch-screen-friendly fingers — just in case your child wants to play Minion Rush while out in a blizzard. A tiny coat pocket is tagged with a picture of a phone so your preschooler knows, before he can read, that you are depriving him of valuable technology that he could be carrying on his person at this very instant, even though he is struggling with the concept of having to carry his very own nearly empty backpack to school each day.

My question is whether parents are really doing this: Are adults buying kids as young as grade-schoolers their own phones now? And are people actually buying young children smartphones? (And requiring pockets for them?)

Sure, the kids can call you when you mess up and accidentally forget to pick them up at school. The down side is that they might be surfing porn and watching bomb-making videos when you get there.

What are your thoughts on smartphones for kids? Are they too much, too soon, or just right?


  1. Joy Christi

    I have no earthly idea what sheeple are doing out there, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
    We live in an annoyingly affluent area (in THEE poorest section of town) & since we’re down to pretty much 1 income, we feel like we’re totally in the wrong town. We buy everyone’s discarded fashions from last year at the Goodwill, resale shops, garage sales and whatnot. I only recently got a smart phone I think 2 yrs ago for Christmas/birthday to keep up blog social media, so yeah my little ones? Will not be getting anything like that, other than a toy, for at least a decade. I should probably figure out how to use the thing before I hand it over to them. I’m sure we’ll hear all about how “Brittney B” and “Morgan M” are making fun of them for not having phones, but whatever. Life’s tough, kids.
    Every child/situation is different, but without an actual need to call for a ride? No. Kids do NOT need their own phones, and even then, they could have a throw-away phone, one of those pay-as-you-go phones that do NOT have the internet. If you need the internet? Use our home computer, out in front of everyone, or go to the library. That’s my 2 cents on the subject.

  2. Jillian O'Connor (Post author)

    Even with all the money in the world, I would not want to give my kid his own tablet, phone, whatever, with full Internet service when he’s *in third grade.* I’m human, and let him play games at restaurants and on planes, but I am not ready for him to surf YouTube for those wonderful videos of other kids playing Minecraft. Eek, I’m still in a shock that that is a well-known genre now. I’m not looking forward to the peer pressure that will surely come later.


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