A hi-tech cellular phone with access the Internet can be a serious weapon in the hands of a child who has not been trained morally, says Dr Grace Kelly, former president of the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors in Education, and head of the Behavioural Science Department at Northern Caribbean University.
"If they (children) are not in an environment where they are trained to manage themselves, then it can be a serious weapon that is put in a child's hand and parents ought to be careful," she adds. "When you can probably put a block on television and a block on the Internet, you might not be able to put a block on the phone that can access the Internet."
She says the child's maturity level is what should determine what age he/she is given a cell phone.
"There are some children at age eight, nine, 10 who might be mature enough to appreciate the cell phone for its intended purpose and to use it for that intended purpose — which is to communicate within a certain boundary that would have been established by society and also by their parents," she says. "So it depends on that maturity and the ability to use it as it is intended."
Dr Kelly says the type of cell phone that a child is allowed to carry can make them targets to predators.
"They are going to be targets — because having a cell phone and depending on the kind of cell phones, they can be targets for other persons who prey on them," she warns. "One has got to take that into consideration too."
She says other things that should be taken into consideration when giving a cell phone to a child is when they use the phone, how they use it and how they expose themselves to other things that can put them at risk.
"So some of the things I would want to say before I determine the age you should give them a phone — because even some adults shouldn't have a cell phone," Dr Kelly says. "I see maturity in a different way and I see eight, nine year olds having phones and they can manage it."
She says, however, that she would recommend giving a cell phone to a child in their early teens as a gift.
"You also have to take into consideration their maturity in even appreciating getting a cheaper phone. Because for some children the phone for them is to create the 'bling' type of thing, while for others it's for communication — to make mommy know where I am at or something."
She says a cheaper phone given to a younger child will help to eliminate them as targets, while also helping them to appreciate the equipment for its real purposes. However, if a child already understands its purpose, then the type of phone will not make a difference.
"If they will understand and appreciate the use of the phone for what it is then it doesn't matter how much money is spent on the phone," Dr Kelly says. "Can it send a call, send a text, receive a call, receive a text? That is essentially what should be for them. If they can appreciate that then it would be fine."
Whether a child is given a hi-tech phone which also allows unprohibited Internet access is again up to the maturity of the child as maturity and morals will protect them, she says.