Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

How young is too young to give your child a cell phone? Want to do something nice for someone’s birthday but not sure if it’s “too soon?”

DEAR NATALIE: What are your thoughts about children and cell phones? My daughter is ten and already begging me for a cell phone. She claimed that all of her friends are already getting their own phones. I didn’t believe her at first but then I started asking some of the other parents who just shrugged their shoulders like it was no big deal. I don’t think she should have one but I’m torn. I don’t want her to be left out of the group, either. What do you think? -- CELL PHONE MADNESS

DEAR CELL PHONE MADNESS: The short answer? No way would I give a ten-year-old her own cell phone. First of all, just because we beg our parents for something so we don’t feel left out doesn’t mean we should get it. There is always going to be someone who can afford, experience or be something that you cannot. I don’t think indulging your child’s every whim will help them grow into a strong, productive, empathic person. I also read from different pediatricians and psychologists online that children’s brains just aren’t developed enough to have that much stimuli at such a young age. They say that 14 is the minimum age as to when a child should have a phone, but I think it should be older than that. Either way, if you do decide to go ahead with this plan (which I am against, in case you didn’t catch that) there has to be rules in place including: When she can have it, who is allowed to be on her contact list, she cannot have any passcodes that you don’t have access to, and you have to approve all apps on the phone. Geez, just thinking about this is making me tired. Are you sure you want the headache of all of this? Once they get a phone in their hands, it will never stop. The calls, the texts, the Snapchats, the possibility of online bullying...the list goes on and on. While she may not be “cool” without one, I believe she will be safer without one, and as her parent, it is your job to protect her. You may not be the “fun” parent in this case, but who cares. Your job is to raise a healthy, kind human—not to be her best friend. (That will come after she turns 25 and realizes that you were right about pretty much everything).

DEAR NATALIE: I just started dating someone a few weeks ago. Should I be expected to get her a birthday gift? Her birthday is coming up this weekend and I would like to get her something but I don’t want to freak her out. What do you think? -- HOW SLOW SHOULD I GO

DEAR HOW SLOW SHOULD I GO: I think it is very sweet that you want to give a gift on her birthday. I don’t see anything wrong with that, as long as it isn’t something too over the top. Flowers and a nice dinner might be a good compromise. Does she like amusement parks? Does she like museums? Do something fun for her birthday and treat her to a special day. Sometimes we put so much onus on what we think we should do for someone that we forget to let it unfold naturally. You seem like a thoughtful person to begin with, so just tune in the next time you are together and figure out what might make her day a little brighter. A little romance can go a long way!

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Are you looking for a job? Networking with friends, colleagues and your social acquaintances may help to open up some doors you didn’t really notice before. Don’t be afraid to ask people to pass around your resume!

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)