I have a confession to make.

I’d never owned a cell phone until I was 26.

That’s right. 26. That’s like 80 when it comes to cell phone owning these days, isn’t it?

I also did not drive until I was 30. For an ex-tech journalist, that’s just crazy, but that’s another post for another day.

How I came to own a cell phone when I was 26 is a good story. The short version is that my husband, then-boyfriend, basically went and got one for me because he’d become fed up with my stubbornness, or else I would probably still be blissfully sans cell today. Why do I say ‘blissfully’?

Because I hate those things.

When I was working, it made sense to carry one around. After all, I was a journalist. After a while, I’d even become dependent on mine, because I’d have to call cabs on a regular basis due to my no-driving situation. But while I understood the critical usefulness of a phone for times of emergency or when plans change or when I’ve had to call in to the office to report a story, I think a cell phone is just a great excuse for a lot of things that are wrong in the world today.

I have another confession: Before I became a parent, I was a stickler for punctuality. I hated tardiness, accorded it to selfishness and inconsideration. When I was a kid going for tuition classes, I would often walk home or take a bus if my mom or dad were only 15 minutes late to pick me up. They’d be waiting for me at home because it took a good hour to walk home, by which they’d already be frantic with worry, and when I did get home, I would be greeted with a screaming parent asking where I’d been.

“You were late,” I’d answer simply. Suffice to say, they were very rarely late after that.

Now that I’m a parent, I try very hard to be on time. I give myself some leeway to be late because, well, time is rarely under my direct control. My girls, are rarely under my control as well. That’s just the way it is, sadly.

A cell phone, you see, gives people excuse to be late. “I’ll call you when I am nearby,” is often the phrase we use these days, which is a nice way to say that they will most likely be late. To me, that means “I have other important things in my life, you know, so you just sit tight until I can get to you.” Have you not noticed just how tardy people have become, how unreliant on their schedules they’ve become from just owning a cell?

Cell phones also give people a means to change their minds in the last minute while delaying the consequences. Boss, x feeling well. MC pls. Or Things R x working out. Here’s your 3 talaq. I thee divorce!

Add on top of this the whole expense of owning a cell phone and you can see why I never accepted the need to always carry one, to my husband’s frustration (and he works for the Mobile division at Microsoft!).

MSN recently published an interesting article in its Tech section about whether ten-year olds should be given cell phones. Apparently, a recent study by market research firm the Yankee Group found that if trends continue, more than 50 per cent of the “tween” population (8- to 12-year-olds) will be using cell phones by 2010.

I can’t say I’m surprised. I expect that the (loud) discussion of whether or not Rae should carry a cell will come up as soon as she is in grade school (that’s seven). And Lokes being in the business itself, will of course give the idea his full support. I can already visualise the whole thing.

“It’s for emergencies!” will be his chief selling point.

And mine will be, “She will spend a fortune texting her friends and not paying attention in class!”

And then he will go, “Okay, so all her friends will have a cell and she won’t. That’s so pathetic.”

And then I will go, “Waiting a couple of years until she can prove she can be responsible with money and such an expensive possession, then we can get her one. I say we wait until she can earn a little pocket money before getting her one to help pay the bills.”

And then he will go, “But it’s for emergencies!!!”

How young is too young to have a cell? Check this out. Very good discussion there from a variety of parents with different perspectives, so if you are are struggling today on whether or not to cell your child, read it!

So what do YOU think? Should we cell our children, and if so, how do we know when?