When Keri Rodrigues’s eldest son got his first smartphone about six years ago, he was in the minority among the 9-year-olds in his class. But when her youngest child, now age 9, received his phone, he had plenty of company at school. “It’s rare that a kid would not have a phone now in fourth grade,” Rodrigues told MarketWatch.
Wireless companies don’t track the ages of their users, but executives at AT&T Inc.
and Verizon Communications Inc.
recently noted that kids are getting phones at younger ages these days. Third-party surveys bear out the trend. A 2019 study by Common Sense Media found that 53% of kids owned their own smartphones by age 11. A more recent survey of parents conducted by Recon Analytics, an independent telecommunications research and consulting firm, found that 65% of 10-year-olds owned phones as of late August 2022. Also read: Wireless companies are making it easier for parents to give phones to their kids — and those kids are getting younger The Recon survey also showed a sharp recent uptick. Among the 10-year-olds, 15% had gotten their phones within three months of the August survey, while 50% had them prior to that window. The trend was pronounced at the youngest age ranges, with 15% of 6-year-olds having received their phones in the three months prior to the survey and another 15% already having owned them. The question of when kids should get phones is a personal one for families, and one that requires both rules and the ability to make decisions on the fly. Maritza Guridy, a Pennsylvania mother of seven, got one of her children a phone at age 10 because the child was being bused to school in a dangerous part of the city. But she says her younger children may not need phones until they’re preteens. “My 8-year-old is like, I want a phone,” Guridy said. “I can honestly say, in a class of 25 students, I wouldn’t be surprised if half already had cellphones. She’s just not one [of them], because we don’t feel like she needs one right now.” For the children as young as 6 whom she sees using phones, the devices are “a distraction,” in her view. They can also prompt status issues. …