Parenting

At What Age Should Kids Have Cell Phones?

When should kids have cell phones?
Written by Michael Bonner

In a private Facebook group, someone asked the question, “At What Age Should Kids Have Cell Phones”? Being a single dad, my answer was very stubborn and overprotective. Sorry, I meant super short and sweet.

When they’re old enough to get a job

Satisfied with my response, I closed my computer and started driving for Lyft. Throughout the day, and in between my rides, I was reading other answers on my phone. At first I was shocked. Most of the group members thought kids between the ages of 9 and 11 should be ok to have cell phones.

I was dumbfounded. Was I really that strict of a parent? I may have been joking about the ‘old enough to get a job’ response but I really couldn’t accept that kids should have cell phones at such a young age.

Go ahead, call me old fashioned. I believe kids are way too distracted by technology and are losing their focus on life. I can’t be the only parent that feels this way.

In an attempt to keep an open mind, I decided to do some research.  Among other articles – that all support my distraction theory FYI – I found one on WebMD that was very helpful and to the point.

WebMD begins by listing the main benefits:

Convenience

If your child has their own cell phone, you can call or text them to find out what they’re doing. Knowing where they are can help you feel safer and in case of an emergency, cell phones can be crucial if your child needs to reach you or vice versa.

WebMD then lists some of the downsides to consider:

Health Considerations

Radiation. Cell phones work by using radio waves. That’s radiation (though it’s not like what you’d get from an X-ray). Does that affect health — especially if children start using phones at a very young age when their brains are still developing? So far, studies have found no direct link between cell phone use and brain tumors in children. However, researchers also pointed out that the people in that study didn’t use their phones as much as people do today.

Note: It’s possible for cell phone users to reduce their exposure by spending less time on the phone or by using a hands-free device or speaker mode when making a call.

Lack of Sleep. If your child has her cell phone with her at bedtime, will she actually go to sleep or will she stay up and text? Pediatricians are seeing growing evidence that cell phones, especially those that allow kids to text, can disrupt children’s sleep patterns.

Teen Drivers and Texting

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study shows that texting is the most distracting task a driver can do. Other research has found that talking on the phone — hands-free or not — affects driving ability as much as drinking alcohol. And, 28% of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers using a phone to text or call, according to the National Safety Council.

More than half of teens aged 16-17 who own cell phones said they have talked on the phone while driving. Additionally, one third of those teens also admitted that they have texted while driving too.

The article goes on to mention how phones are more than just phones and how they can expose kids to social media, social interaction and the potential for cyberbullying. WebMD also states that early studies show that frequent texting and emailing can disrupt kids’ concentration.

Hmmm…

WebMD summarizes the article with “When are They Ready (for cell phones)”? Until now, one might think I used this article to support my argument that kids are too distracted by and don’t need cell phones at such an early age. The truth, however, is that WebMD has given me a new perspective and has helped me to change my mind just a little.

In closing, WebMD says that we should

“Think beyond your child’s age before making the cell phone decision.”

Maturity and the ability to be responsible are more important than a child’s age. Look for the developmental signs. Does your child lose their belongings? Are they generally a responsible kid? Can you trust them? Will they understand how to use the phone safely?

The rate at which kids mature is different — even among siblings

You also have to think long and hard about whether your child actually needs that phone. Children really only need phones if they’re traveling alone from one place to another.

It’s about who they are as individuals, what’s going on in their lives and how much they can handle, not how old they are.

Well said WebMD. I agree completely.

WebMD Article Source: Is Your Child Really Ready for a Cell Phone?

About the author

Michael Bonner

Michael Bonner is a dedicated father to 3 amazing kids. Born and raised in San Diego, California, he currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. Determined to win a "Dad of the Year" award from just about anywhere, Michael spends most of his time working, learning and trying to be a positive example for his children...again, he's trying.

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