Should My Child Have a Cellphone? Appropriate Ages and Stages of Use

It is an unarguable point that cell phones are a great way to keep in touch. However, giving a child a cell phone can be a tough call for parents. In the United States, the average age for adolescents to receive their first cell phone is 11.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for determining the appropriate age to give a child a cell phone. Cell phone use depends on a variety of circumstances. In an emergency situation, having a child equipped with the cell phone is a savvy and essential way to stay in touch. There can be many benefits to giving a cell phone to a child. Children and parents can inform each other about any changes of plan. Parents can stay in contact with their children throughout the day. Children can reach friends more easily.

Purposes of the cell phone

These days, cell phones are not simply used for staying in touch. They also allow children to participate in games, maintain a social media presence, listen to music and watch online videos and movies. More importantly, smart phones in particularly have many potential applications in the classroom.

Many touchscreen phones, especially smart phones, can be quite handy at school. Students have fast and reliable Internet access that they can use to look up information. Students can get prepared and organized by using their phones. Children and teens may use their smartphones at school to browse a class topic and look for more in-depth information. Calculator applications can be helpful with mathematics problems. The smart phone is increasingly replacing paper, pen, and textbooks.

Benefits of using a smart phone at school include reliable Internet access for referencing research, email access, planners and organizational applications for homework assignments. Popular smartphone applications allow students to note, catalog and store information. Students are even able to record lectures with on board software or third-party applications.

The question then becomes: do cell phones make life too easy for children both inside the school and out? Parents draw from their experiences in school and as children. Growing up in a ‘different world,’ often leads to a sense of unease when confronted with the new technology offered to children.

Safety Considerations

Many parents are very concerned about texting and driving. It is undeniable that many adolescents have incredible multitask abilities when it comes to using technology during their daily lives. However, using a cell phone while on the road is a dangerous habit at any age. According to the National Safety Council, roughly 28% of all traffic accidents can be attributed to cell phone use behind the wheel. Teens must be specifically advised against any cell phone use behind the wheel of a car. Some vehicles are even constructed with an auto-restriction on driving if a cell phone is in use.

Social interaction through cell phones can be an excellent opportunity for children. Though there is always a small risk of harassment regarding cyber bullying, this can often be easily managed.

Texting, instant messaging and other social media interactions can be a viable platform for children to learn and grow. However, parents may often have safety concerns about letting the young child participate in social media.  For this reason, many parents opt to avoid buying a cell phone for their child. This said it is possible to set ground rules for cell phone use and avoid letting a child have a social media presence.

Behavioral Considerations

Parents often fear that when they purchase their child a cell phone, their world will revolve around it. Indeed, studies show that cell phones can affect emotional and physical health. One of the main concerns is that a child’s concentration will be disrupted by compulsive cell phone use. Another health consideration with adolescent cell phone use is the lack of sleep. It is proven that for any age group, electronic devices before bed can result in a lack of sleep. These devices may be televisions, computers or cell phones. The electronic screen and enticing content provide unwanted stimulation during a time that should be relaxing.

A good night’s rest is even more important for growing children. For this reason, it is advised that children do not use cell phones before bed or in bed. It is even stated that children should be told to put down cell phones and any other electronic devices roughly an hour before they go to bed.

Cellphones as a Rite of Passage

The cell phones of today can do a great deal more for logistical and entertainment purposes. According to statistics, up to 85% of teens ages, 14 to 17 have cell phones. Roughly 69% of young people ages 11 to 14 own cell phones according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Astonishingly, 31% of children ages 8 to 10 own cell phones. When children are faced with the peer pressure of owning a cell phone and the stigma of being disconnected, cell phones become more than a parental privilege. Owning a cell phone is increasingly becoming a way to fit in and make friends.

Making the Decision as a Family

For every family, cell phones for children may have advantages and disadvantages. It is important for children to feel connected. At the same time, it is equally important for families to make informed decisions. The best way to decide if a child is ready to have a cellphone is for parents to understand what they are getting into. Research brands, costs, functions and usage purposes. Think carefully about what features are needed and appropriate for a child’s age and development.

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