Kids with smartphones: What’s the right age?

Do your kids want a smartphone? If you represent the majority opinion, then you’re likely telling your children they can’t have a smartphone until they can drive. A SodaHead poll of 1,066 parents shows that 66 percent of them believe kids shouldn’t have a smartphone until they turn 16 years old. More than half — 54 percent — say a regular cell phone is fine for 13- to 15-year-olds, while nearly a quarter of those polled feel even those kids 12 and under should have a basic handset.

SodaHead published an infographic with additional survey data — including trends showing that the number of cell phone calls made by kids are rising quickly — but here’s part of the data specific to both smartphones and tablets:

Interestingly, nearly the same percentage polled said the 16-and-up age group is also the right time for kids to have a tablet. Given the similar capabilities between smartphones and tablets, that shouldn’t surprise. And I suspect most parents would opt to buy their teen a Wi-Fi tablet due to the lower hardware cost and lack of ongoing data plan. That means the device is more likely to be used at home, where parents can keep a closer eye on what online activities kids are engaging in.

I’m curious to hear what our readers think of smartphones, tablets and kids. Because I’ve been reviewing mobile devices since my kids were just a few years old, my children are used to seeing a large number of cell phones, smartphones, and, more recently, tablets in the house. As a result, they’re on the younger side of the scale when it comes to using mobile technology and don’t represent the average household.

My wife and I decided that both kids would wait until the age of 10 before getting a phone. We find it helpful for them to have the ability to call us as needed, especially since one of them walks to and from school. But after seeing what I could do with a smartphone, both wanted to do the same, so neither started out with a feature phone. My stepdaughter took over my iPhone 3GS (s aapl) contract with a new phone number when I left iOS in early 2010, for example. My son ended up with an iPhone 4 when it debuted last year.

Both were into iOS apps, but eventually they got a pair of Android (s goog) devices: the Sidekick 4G, which my son helped me review earlier this year. After a few months of using iOS applications, the kids decided that a hardware keyboard was more important to them, because they text far more than they use mobile software, hence the change. Perhaps the more interesting question then is, At what age do smartphone applications become a primary use case for kids?

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr userĀ criminalintent