Almost 20% of 3rd Graders Have Cell Phones

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Reuters

Kids in the third grade are, on average, eight years old. Nowadays, 20 percent of third-grade boys and 18 percent of third-grade girls already have a cell phone, according to a 2011 study of 20,766 Massachusetts elementary, middle, and high school students. By the time the kids reach fifth grade, 39% of the kids have cell phones, and phone saturation is nearly complete by middle school, when more than 83% of the students have a device.

The study was conducted last year by Elizabeth Englander* of Bridgewater University, who cited the figures today at a Yale Information Society Project panel on "The Future of Children's Privacy Online." Englander's used the figures to illustrate a larger point about privacy online: a decent percentage of young children are online and they're subject to substantial bullying there.

*In an earlier version of this story, I inexplicably called Elizabeth, "Stephanie." My apologies.

Me, I'm still too blown away by that many kids having phones (particularly smartphones) to think through the implications of the situation. Which is Englander's other point, I suppose. Adults -- digital natives or not -- can't imagine what a childhood mediated by mobile, social technology that didn't exist 10 years ago is actually like. 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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