Your 8-Year-Old Doesn't Need a Cell Phone

NOTE: For optimal effect, read the following article in Andy Rooney's voice.


You know what annoys me? Young kids with cell phones. Unless there is some kind of major health implication, there is no reason for your 6-, 7- or 8-year-old to have a cell phone. I was shocked when I read a survey from coupon company Vouchercloud that found a startling 53 percent of 6-year-olds have a mobile phone.

Do you know what I had when I was 6? An imagination! And maybe a walkie-talkie. Your kid doesn’t need a cell phone at such a young age. When I see an early elementary-aged kid with his or her own cell phone, I immediately label them a spoiled brat, and I suspect as a parent you have very little willpower.

Tyler, my 8-year-old, came off the bus one day to explain to me that he needed a cell phone and that it was “important for his life.” Hubba what? A cell phone is not a need. It is a want … and it’s a want because it’s the most popular “toy” of adults everywhere. He also told me that one of the other kids in his second-grade class had one and that everybody has one.

For fun, I had Tyler ask his pal the next day if he’s ever made an actual phone call with his cell phone. His friend’s response, “No, but I might one day.” The friend’s phone is used for one shocking, primary task — playing Pokémon Go. If your kid wants to play video games on the go, get him or her a Nintendo DS. They don’t need a phone.

Right now you may be ready to throw the old “I need them to get in touch with me” excuse. It’s a bunch of bull. Your child is in school. You don’t need to talk to your kid in school. Schools have phones and, in an emergency, they can get you in touch with your child. “Derek, but what about after school?” Every teacher, coach and parent I know carries a cell phone. As someone who has coached an elementary, after-school club/sport, I would never leave practice until all my kids were picked up and I was with fourth and fifth graders. Emergencies happen, which is why you have the coach or leader’s cell-phone number and they have yours.

I don’t know about your kindergarten, first or second grader, but mine lose things every day. Not just small things. Tyler lost his large, puffy winter coat last year. One of my boys lost my old Nintendo Game Boy. I just can’t understand giving a cell phone with access to the Internet and texting to someone who isn’t old enough to even think about letting stay home alone without adult supervision. Not only that, these 6-, 7- and 8-eight-year-olds have iPhones four years newer than mine — a guy who is about five times their age. If we are giving them things they don't need, let’s give them an email address, a credit card and a subscription to the “New Yorker.”   

I grew up in the dark ages (1980s/90s) and wasn’t allowed to have a cell phone until I started driving to work in high school and could afford to pay for it myself. Getting that giant bag phone and putting that magnetic antenna on my roof was a milestone. My sons won’t be getting cell phones for a long time. I’m thinking I might start them with Jitterbug phones.


Derek James is a WCCB News Rising anchor, and lives in Charlotte with his wife and two boys, ages 5 and 8.