Now that back-to-school frenzy is underway, the question confronts parents of kids at younger ages than ever before: To buy or not to buy the cellphone?

This used to be a question posed when kids hit high school, but now the majority of tweens have phones.

The “sweet spot,” according to researchers, was the 10- and 11-year-old child. Sixty percent of the children were that age when they received phones, while 20 percent were 8 or 9 and 15 percent were 12.

“Before the training wheels are coming off their bikes, many children are getting their first cellphones,” said John Breyault, a NCL vice president in a commentary accompanying the survey. “Pre-teens are the new growth market for the wireless industry.”

It’s interesting that the top-cited reason parents purchased a cellphone for a tween was for “safety.”

Since the vast majority (96 percent) of kids were given phones that had texting abilities and/or Web access, the phones actually broadened their access to an unknown and sometimes dangerous world online.

Most parents who purchased the phones, however, told researchers that they were happy with the purchase and had not confronted issues of cyber-bullying or sexting.

Another cautionary note: The survey found that a quarter of those parents who have purchased their tween a phone have faced unexpectedly higher bills.

Still this reverse-aging of the market doesn’t seem to be abating. Like a virus, a cellphone purchase for one kid can lead to a whole class asking, begging, demanding a phone of their own.

No wonder the third-most-cited reason for purchasing a phone for a tween was because the “child asked for it.”

Do you plan to buy your child a cellphone this year? At what age will you? Why?

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