When is the right time for a child to have a cellphone? | Seven Days Vermont

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When is the right time for a child to have a cellphone? 

Published October 1, 2013 at 4:00 a.m.

Dwayne Doner, Jericho


Cook, Three Tomatoes Trattoria

Sons Finn, 14, and Rubin, 6

My oldest son, Finn, grew up kind of old-fashioned. We just weren't into technology. We read books and we built things. We didn't have the internet; we didn't have commercial television. Finn had to learn as we did, when the technology entered our lives.

We talked about getting Finn a cellphone a year or two ago, but he's never been interested. He's online now, but he's never really been into cellphone use. When he's not with us, he's at another household. I think if it was getting to the point where he had friends with cars and they were going out — just them — we would want him to have a cellphone.

My younger son, Rubin, is very into technology — he follows a couple of accounts on YouTube and he FaceTimes me at work on the iPod app. If he was 13 now, he would probably want a phone, and I'd be OK with that.

Andy Gordon, Underhill


Videographer/editor, WCAX; actor, Potato Sack Pants Theater

Son Henry, 10 months

I really don't like cellphones; they're a nuisance. You're always accessible. In some ways, it's cool. In some, it's annoying.

Either way, it's the way the world is going. To ignore it is to not prepare your child for life. My wife, Meredith, and I have talked about when we should give Henry a phone. I think once he starts driving, he might get into a situation where it would be great to have a phone on him.

There's obviously going to be some kind of boundaries: Don't use it when we have company. Don't use it when the family is doing an activity together. Don't use it when we're at the dinner table. The dinner table, for me, is where kids and parents talk, and technology does not come into play. If he's on the phone for hours and we get some ridiculous bill, there is probably going to be a discussion. There are limits to everything. You just have to set the boundaries and see how it goes.

Mel Allen, Essex


Senior help-desk support specialist, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

Daughters Merrill, 18; Derreth, 5; and Sierra, 1 month

I got an extra cellphone when my daughter, Merrill, was 8. I was a single dad, moving from apartment to apartment, and I didn't want a landline that was changing all the time. I lived in Burlington, so Merrill rode the city bus to school and home. I thought, There's no reason to leave the phone at home when I really need it to be with her. The phone was an effective way to keep track of her for the brief periods of time she was on her own. I pre-programmed numbers into it — family members and the parents of a few of her friends — and she wasn't allowed to call anyone who wasn't on that list. There was no texting allowed on the phone.

When she was older, we had a good discussion about the dangers of sexting — how it can not only be a crime, but can also live with you forever. Once, after I caught wind of a story that a few girls at the local high school had risqué pictures of themselves taken with their own phones — mostly in locker rooms by other girls without their knowledge — I simply decided to get Merrill a phone without a camera.

Drew Larsen, Burlington


Network technician, Network Performance Inc.

Daughters Ella, 9, and Greta, 7

Right now, I feel my kids are too young to be responsible enough to have a phone and not lose it. They don't really have purses to carry their phones around in. Well, Greta's got about 45 purses, but which one would she use?

In my mind, the right time to get a phone may be around age 12 — when they're off doing things on their own. Then they wouldn't have an excuse to say, "Well, you know, I couldn't get ahold of you." I think we would possibly have them pay for part of it and maybe get a TracFone where you can pay by the minute and know how many minutes you have. I'd like it to be more of a phone for emergencies or when you really need to talk to somebody, rather than a phone you can use anytime you want, for anything you want.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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