If you've got young kids in school, you might've packed their backpack with a lunch, pencil case and binders. But what about a mobile phone?
Many parents have finally decided on – or are currently struggling with – giving their kids a phone for the first time.
At what age is this ideal?
There isn't a specific age a child is "ready" for their first mobile phone. There are a number of factors that go into this decision – including maturity, responsibility and necessity. If you're toiling over this decision, however, consider the following:
Know your own kids
Not every situation is the same, but most would agree a 5 or 6 year-old doesn't need a mobile phone. Fast-forward to age 13 or 14, however, and your kids will likely tell you "everyone" has a mobile phone by now. Yes, many young teens do have a mobile phone these days.
Sometimes it's situational
If a responsible 10- to 12 year-old spends a lot of time out of the home (perhaps away from parental supervision) or in a busy dual-income or single-parent home, it's not unusual for a child at this age to have a mobile phone these days – at least for emergency purposes. Again, every situation is different, and parents need to make the "call" on whether they can afford a mobile phone – including the associated voice and/or data plan (consider group "family plans") – as well as if the child can handle the responsibility and how, where and when that phone can be used.
Peace of mind
Many parents talk about having "peace of mind" knowing their kids have a mobile phone, in case they need to get in touch with them or vice-versa. Some kids take public transit on their own, for example, or they go to afterschool programs or other activities by themselves. In some cases it's the parents who need to be reached because they're the ones not always at home – if you consider scenarios such as working a second job to make ends meet or those who travel extensively for work. In some cases, parents check in on where their kids are via GPS-enabled smartphone apps.
Before kids are handed a mobile phone, there should be a lengthy discussion about safe practices – not using your phone while crossing the street, for example – as well as phone etiquette, not abusing the privilege (such as using it too much, during class or showing it off to friends after school) and using a wired or wireless headset to reduce any health risks associated with excessive mobile phone use.
Yahoo! readers, what are your thoughts on how old a child should be before they get a mobile phone?