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.