Do Schoolchildren Need Mobile Phones?

14/09/2009 11:02 | Updated 22 May 2015

When I was at school getting ready for the new term meant new shoes and restocking my pencil case.

That was thirty years ago and now shopping for back-to-school supplies probably involves topping up the credit on a mobile phone too.

But are mobiles really necessary for school children or are we being too indulgent and making them grow up too fast? And what of the health implications?

Now here's where I confess that two of my five children do indeed have a mobile which will be stowed in their blazer pocket come September.

Are they really necessary? Do they have to have one? After all, I managed perfectly well without one when I went to school.

I asked my 11-year-old, who was given a pay-as-you-go phone for her birthday in readiness for her transfer to secondary school in September.

She looked horrified at the thought of not having one. And there's the rub: all her friends have them and texting is a quick and easy way for them to communicate.

My reasoning is that adolescence is fraught enough without adding to her woes by making her stand out as the Kid Who Hasn't Got a Mobile. It also gives me peace of mind, although I'm aware this could be a false sense of security.

According to a recent report, more than half of children in the UK aged between five and nine own a mobile. At my daughters' primary school children have taken their phones in, but that's rare and more as a Show and Tell than to use.

In our family, you get one when you go to secondary school as we can't see the need before then. I suppose it's also a way of us showing how we appreciate they're entering a new phase, that greater independence will be theirs' but the other side of that is they have to demonstrate trustworthy behaviour by keeping in touch.

It seems our thinking is one that gets expert backing. Leader of the Government's research on mobile phone safety and an emeritus professor of physics, Professor Lawrie Challis, believes children should not get them before secondary school age.

They should then be encouraged to text rather than make calls to lower the levels of electromagnetic radiation their brains are exposed to.

My older children know they must turn off their phone in the classroom, and the teachers are rigid in enforcing this. In any case, completely banning them from school would be virtually impossible.

I'm happy with how much they use their phones and, so far, my teenager hasn't broken the classroom rule.

I am also aware that limits have to be imposed, and to help with this both have to use pocket money to top up their credit. It is a situation that's monitored but, as with everything in life, there has to be a balance.

Do you think it's important for children to have a mobile phone and are you happy for them to take it to school? Does the school have strict rules about its use?

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