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When to Buy Your Child a
David Poger had planned to buy his daughter
Maya a cellphone when she was 15 and in high school, but last year he and
his wife caved when she was 11.
“There was a lot of nagging and pleading,” said Mr. Poger, who lives in St.
Louis, Miss. But for his wife, Stephanie, and him, he said, “Safety was a
big issue because she was walking downtown with her school friends, going to
movies and roller skating without us.” He added, “I still think she’s too
Many parents these days face the same struggle as the Pogers: at what age
should you buy your child a cellphone? And when you do buy that first phone,
what kind should it be?
About 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States own a mobile
phone, up from 45 percent in 2004, according to an April study by the Pew
Internet and American Life Project, part of the Pew Research Center. And
children are getting their phones at earlier ages, industry experts say. The
Pew study, for example, found that 58 percent of 12-year-olds now had a
cellphone, up from 18 percent in 2004.
Parents generally say they buy their child a phone for safety reasons,
because they want to be able to reach the child anytime. Cost also matters
to parents, cellphone industry experts say; phones and family plans from
carriers are both becoming more affordable. Also, as adults swap out their
old devices for newer smartphones, it is easier to pass down a used phone.
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