Cutting Room: Aren’t you rather young for a mobile?


The reaction to the launch of a mobile aimed at children from the age of four hasn’t been great, but Samantha Tomaszczyk argues that introducing such a concept is in fact not a bad idea

How old does a person have to be to own their first mobile phone?

According to manufacturer and Vodafone MVNO CyCell, four years old is a perfect age, and the firm has just made national headlines by launching a mobile device aimed at children of that age.

The move has generated a lot of publicity – in fact, speaking to CyCell’s founder, Tom Sunderland, days after the news broke, he seemed decidedly downbeat compared to a few days earlier.

The headlines were largely unkind, with the papers – as you might expect – choosing a negative angle, speaking to parenting groups to gauge their views of the new handset.

One headline read ‘Parenting groups fury at new handset’ and founder Siobhan Freegard said: “It’s sadly yet another example of firms ringing up profits before children’s welfare. No four-year-old needs their own phone, as they should never be left alone or in a situation where they need to ring an adult.”

And without doubt she has a point. But unfortunately we live in a world where children do wander off and go missing – sometimes with disastrous consequences.

And while a mobile phone is not the answer to these problems, surely it could help? A missing child with a phone is better than a missing child without one, surely?

While I understand Freegard’s concern, I think her statement is rather naive.

There is no such thing as the perfect parent, and even the most closely guarded four- to nine-year-olds get lost in huge shopping centres, supermarkets and busy high streets.

Indeed, even David Cameron – a man some of the British public trusts to take care of the entire nation – managed to leave his eight-year-old daughter in a pub last summer.

Incidentally, there’s a good chance she used a mobile phone to call him back.

In 2009, UK charity Personal Finance Education Group found the average age at which children receive their first phone is eight years. And in September, research by the Marketing Store found almost three quarters (73 per cent) of

UK children aged 10 now own a mobile phone, compared to the global average of 45 per cent.

New generation
Children are no longer strangers to technology. Most will have used a computer in some form, be it for gaming or educational purposes, before their first day at school – and even more will have spent time on a parent’s mobile phone either playing games or talking to relatives.

It’s not an alien concept.

Some of the comments left on various websites covering the story are from parents, many pointing out the fact they didn’t have or need a phone as a child.

But times have changed dramatically. Technology will play a huge part in the lives of the next generation – more so than we can probably dare to imagine. Some schools have already shelved books in favour of iPads.

And it’s important to remember this phone is as basic as it possibly could be.

With no MP3 players, internet, fancy ringtones, camera or even text messaging – it doesn’t even have a keypad – it’s certainly not going to be a target for thieves.

It is basically a tool to receive and make a very limited number of calls – with contacts all predetermined by the parent.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

We are interested to hear what you think. Email to give your views.