Cell phone debate: What’s the right age? (from our June print edition)

PELHAM — In fifth grade, 15 students have a smartphone already and 14 students are getting their phone for graduation. Parents and students have mixed opinions on the devices.

Many students get phones for sixth grade, or even before. Some students want phones even earlier, but some parents want their children to get a phone later.

“I think my daughter deserves to have independence,” said Amy Cole, a fifth grade parent. “If she wants to go into the town with her friends, she can call me to let me know or ask for a ride home. I thought about waiting, but I knew all of her friends would have one and it would be unfair to her.”

Last year, the “Wait till Eighth” campaign was encouraged by some parents at Colonial. It is where the student has to wait until they are in eighth grade to get a smartphone.  It is supposed to keep students more focused on school and less on their phones.

“I do not think my child needs a phone yet,” said the parent of a seventh grader who did not want to be identified. “During the middle school years, a phone that texts and calls is inappropriate for students at that age. Students do not need distractions until high school. It takes away from their school work and creativity. They miss out on the middle school years and advance to fast.”

“I am getting my phone for fifth grade graduation,” said Rowan Egan, a fifth grader in Jeneane Salerno’s class. “I wanted to get it earlier so I could contact my friends and family. I also would not get bored as much as I do now. I think when I am getting my phone, it is a fair time, but I feel bad for the kids who have to wait.”

“My mom will give me her old phone for a couple of months, and if that goes well, I will get a new phone at the start of the school year,” said Lily Reid, a fifth grader. “I think getting a phone is important because middle schoolers have more freedom, and I walk home alone, so I can contact my mom if I ever need to.”