Does your elementary school child beg you every day for a cell phone? Is your middle schooler adamant they are the only child in the school without a phone? While statistics on the ages of children with phones tends to agree with your kids, where many of their classmates have phones, doctors and experts strongly disagree with giving children all access to these tiny portable computers. Between the dangers of cyberbullying, online predators, and too much screen time, there are some parents that feel it’s ok to give young children access to a phone for safety and the ability to talk to family via facetime or text messaging. So, what is too young for a child to have a phone?
Why Should Your Child Have Access to Phone?
Safety is a concern for all parents. If your child walks home from school you may them to call and let you know they arrived safely, or if a problem comes up they can immediately dial you for help, which are good reasons to give them a cell phone. But, what kind of phone you should choose can be debated.
Most experts recommend parents to consider a simple, non-smart phone. It’s especially important if you don’t want them to have access to the world of social media and unlimited access to YouTube videos that might contain content not suitable for young children.
What the Experts Say
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends parents limit screen time. Screen time could lead to childhood obesity from inactive children, who would rather spend the day scrolling through social media and videos and spend less time outside playing, socializing, and getting exercise. The fast movement of scrolling through newsfeeds and changing videos leads to changes in the brain’s ability to comprehend and focus long term.
Texting and instant messaging have created a lack of interpersonal skills and the use of a kid’s imagination. Children are not using verbal, face-to-face communication which can lead to an inability to manage stressful situations, debate a touchy topic, read social and facial cues, and openly discuss sensitive issues with their loved ones.
Children are torn between watching the latest YouTube stars and doing schoolwork and are less inclined to do household chores and participate in sports. It can also be distracting and interfere with sleep patterns, which can lead to anxiety, depression, erratic behaviors, and outbursts.
What are the Benefits of Children Having Cell Phones?
Aside from the safety aspects, having access to technology can open up interests for children they were not previously exposed to. Like creating gaming software, designing buildings and the world of architecture, access to learning tools to help with academics through learning apps, and learning about other cultures through gaming communities.
That does not mean, however, they should have their own phone. Some experts suggest it’s better to earn screen time on a shared device so children can learn about the importance of maintaining commitments, such as doing chores and having good behavior.
By limiting screen time, you have the option to provide your child with the best of both worlds. They have access to useful apps but are not subjected to the things you don’t want them to see. There are plenty of parental control programs that you can control what your child sees and does with a phone.
What’s the Best Age to Get Your Child a Phone?
There are certain movements that suggest waiting until 8th grade to give a child a cell phone. There is even a pledge through the online group Wait Until 8th that you can pledge to wait until your child is in the 8th grade to buy them their own personal cell phone.
However, some schools require students to have access to a cell phone. Whether having a phone for calculator purposes or using “check-in” apps for school field trips, schools are relying on portable technology. Other parents are fine with allowing their child access to cell phone with agreed restrictions. These restrictions include:
- The ability to check their child’s phone on demand
- Answering their phone immediately if their parent is calling/texting
- Having an enabled tracking app at all times
- Leaving their phone in a central location at bedtime
There is no doubt children are getting cell phones at a much younger age; however, no one knows your child better than you. With proper agreements and usage restrictions, both parents and children make it a win-win situation. If you decide to get your child a phone, be sure to lay down the rules ahead of time. If they don’t follow the rules, the chance of losing their cell phone privileges should be enforced.