It’s May and every year at this time I work extensively with fifth graders on podcasts and other multimedia projects. Each year the students’ conversations drift toward their anticipation of sixth grade, middle school … and new cell phones. A connection exists, in their minds, between the first year of Middle School and getting the all-important digital accessory. Actually, the kids feel it’s an accessory, but their parents consider it a lifeline — something to keep them connected to their children whenever it’s necessary (and sometimes when it isn’t that necessary).
A good getting-started article to read is the New York Times piece When to Buy Your Child a Cell Phone, written by reporter Stephanie Olsen in June 2010. While quite a few children now have cell phones in sixth grade, a few parents prefer to wait to purchase a child’s phone for a year or so beyond the start of Middle School. Common Sense Media’s cell phone page provides lots of helpful information for parents, including a short video to assist with the decision-making process. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Healthy Children website also has an article, Cell Phones, What’s the Right Age?