One of the more vexing questions during back-to-school-shopping season is whether to buy a cellphone. It’s a hard question to answer personally and a hard one for parents to agree on collectively.

The debate has trickled down to lower and lower grades. Recently, I followed a debate on a parenting forum over whether it’s appropriate to buy one for a kindergartner.

I laid out my case for holding off as long as possible on this necessity of modern life.

First, there are new data about the danger, or lack thereof, for children who use cellphones.

A study published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that cellphone users ages 7 to 19 are at no greater risk of brain cancer than non-users. Swiss researchers studied the cellphone usage of children with brain tumors, comparing them to a control group. They found no statistical difference in the amount of time the cancer-stricken children spent on a cellphone.

However, I recently saw a cellphone that made me unsettled. It’s called the Teddyfone. This little phone, shaped like a teddy bear, available in pink or blue and easily used by toddlers, is intended for children ages 4 and older. I think the introduction of a phone at such a young age fuels our irrational fears about the safety of children and cripples the development of independence.

It is not uncommon to see kids carrying a cellphone by the 1st grade.

When you are deliberating at what age to give your child a cell phone, understand that many children will abuse the privilege by constantly going over minutes, sending inappropriate text messages, or making prank calls.

Carrying a cell phone carries responsibility and a child who tends to constantly lose things is probably not ready for a cell phone. There is not only the replacement costs of the phone to consider, but the misuse which could occur if someone else finds the phone and decides to take advantage and run up your cellular bill.

A child who understands the concept of wasteful usage and good phone etiquette is likely ready for a phone. One who doesn’t understand the purpose of a phone and perceives the cell as a toy is probably not ready to carry this responsibility.

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