At What Age is Cell Phone Ownership Appropriate?

After reading Gabriel’s post this week about cell phone dependence, I started thinking about how much different it must be for children who’ve grown up with ipads and iphones their whole lives than it is for me (I got my first cell phone in high school). According to this article published by The Guardian (link below), the average age for children in America to receive their first cell phone is 11. And nearly 1 in 10 kids has their own phone by age 5. That is absolutely crazy to me! So much of my childhood socialization was based on physical isolation and the need to make an effort to see/talk to people. If I was bored on a Saturday afternoon, I ran down the street to my neighbor’s house to play, or I biked over to my friend’s house to convince her to hang out. I joined soccer leagues and volleyball teams so that I’d have scheduled times every week where I got to see my friends and be active and play.  My parents scheduled playdates with my friends’ families after school every day so I always had someone to be with. There was a personal element tied to all of my socialization and communication because I had no other way to connect with people. I wonder though, with children getting phones at earlier and earlier ages, how this will effect their socialization skills and activity levels. How many children still spend their Saturday afternoons running around the yard with their neighbors? I suspect that with cell phones, it’s much easier for them to pass the time sitting inside texting their friends from afar rather than actually hanging out with them. I don’t have any little siblings, so most of my fears are based on assumptions rather than my own experience/observations. But do any of you have little siblings or cousins that you’ve noticed strange/new patterns of socialization in? I’d be curious to see how getting a phone at such an early age changes ones socialization patterns… because childhood socialization is so crucial for many later skills in life!