When's the right age to get your first cellphone?

It's a modern-age dilemma: when is the right time to give your child a cell phone?

With busy lifestyles, many parents want to easily stay in touch with their children but are worried about the downsides of mobiles. 

Eight-year-old Marvey's dad wanted to keep an eye on him, but didn't think he was old enough for all the dangers that come with a modern phone.

He bought him an Australian-designed watch which allows him to make and receive calls from a limited pool of numbers. It also has an SOS alert button and GPS monitoring so parents can see where their kids are.

What it doesn't have is access to the internet, which Netsafe's Martin Cocker says makes it a better option for concerned parents.

"It enables you to provide the safety aspects of having a phone, which is being able to be in contact and to know where your child is, without the risks of access to the internet," he explained.

"So in that regard, it's definitely a safer option."

The invention is raising the debate of when the right time is to give your child a proper cellphone.

Netsafe says it's now common for intermediate-aged children to have mobiles - but that doesn't mean all of them should.  

The advice from Netsafe is there is no 'right age', but rather you should give children cell phones when you feel they're mature enough to manage the risks around it.

Parenting Place writer John Cowan says those risks are all around open access to the internet.

"I think the analogy with food works quite well," he says.  

"Food can be very useful - it's essential. But it depends a lot on what type of food and how much, and the same goes with online media consumption."



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