Cell phones should come early, I think.
I haven't had to cross this bridge yet, but I think when a child should be added to a cell phone account is highly dependent on situation.
For example, if I had a kid who had to walk to and from school every day, I'd want them to have a cell phone for safety reasons. If I was homeschooling, however, I think I could hold off for a while.
I think it is very important to introduce children to technology pretty early these days, though, because...
A. it's necessary in order to function within the normal parameters of society... Not that normalcy itself is important to me, so much as I don't want my children to be any more socially stunted than they may by by the simple act of being my spawn. At least in my generation, technology has become the number one method of communication by far. People text and Facebook and Snapchat and tweet...
In my generation, just calling someone up without shooting them a text first to ask, unless you're really close, is kind of rude.
Not only is it how we've learned to communicate- via text- but we're busy people. With a text or an email or FB message, I can respond to you when I have a minute (Let's be honest, we're usually not far from our social tools.) Especially if it doesn't require immediate attention, interrupting someone while they are working on one of 1743 projects doesn't come across very well.
and B. It's a highly valuable tool. Albeit, I came into the smart phone game pretty late... My laptop or Kindle are practically attached to my hands. It's how I learn. It's where I work. It's the source of my leisure (think games, reading on my Kindle, etc), my communication, my opportunities (networking, reviews, etc) much of my organization (Thank you, EverNote!)... I'm quite reliant on my technology because it's very much an integral part of my life.
For every 100 people I talk to online, I may talk to one physical human being. Even companies like Intel and Apple have office spaces on Second Life, where you attend your meetings virtually as an avatar. A child needs to know how to function within these parameters to remain relevant to the work force, and I think delaying communication via technology for too long is stunting.
My father was a computer nerd, and I remember practicing my numbers and alphabet via games that came on floppy disks. I can honestly say that it has truly helped me to thrive, not only having access to the latest technology, but being highly efficient with it also.
That's not to say I don't think being outside, having diversified skills, and learning to communicate face to face aren't important parts of life also... They undoubtedly are. But this is the information age, and it shows. I saw a toddler who could hardly speak being a Kindle app expert a few years ago and was blown away. That's just where the world is right now.
I think I got my first phone when I was about 10. I'm not certain, but that's back when phones could call. No internet or texting or anything, just calls. It was cool. I would almost wager to say a child should have a phone sooner than that these days, but again, I think it's highly situation dependent. I think if they don't own their own phone (it's a big responsibility and there is some risk associated!) they should at least learn to play around on mom's so they can learn the lay of the current tech, in my opinion.
What about you? When do your kids get added to your cell phone plan? Why? Do they play with yours?
Do you think technology is as important as I do? Why or why not?
What I worry about is the addictiveness of technology. Kids need to exersice all of their senses in order to really experience the world around them. I don't want my elementary school student clicking away on a tablet, cell phone, or game boy rather than running outside and playing in the mud. Once you give them that technology it's really hard to pry it away from them and get them to enjoy the physical world around them.
With that said, I do think that simple cell phone that only calls a few numbers is a good thing for kids to have for safety reasons - like walking to school.