Do 6-year-olds need cell phones?
Cell phones were once giant bricks used only by a few adults, but over the past decade, carrying a cell phone has become second nature for most. The use of these devices has also trended younger with parents purchasing phones for their teens, and now some elementary school children have cell phones.
The average age children receive their first cell phone is 6 years old, and 53 percent of children have a cell phone by the time they turn 7, according to a recent survey by vouchercloud.net of nearly 2,300 parents with children between the ages of 11 and 16.
When parents were asked why they decided to get their child his or her first cell phone, 31 percent made the purchase for security reasons, 25 percent to communicate with friends and family, and 20 percent to keep up with friends at school.
“Studies show that before middle school, kids who have cell phones don’t use them for communication,” says Dr. Christopher Jamerson, pediatrician with Advocate Children’s Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “Instead, they mostly use them to watch videos and play games. Once they get into middle school or early high school, it becomes much more of a social tool.”
When giving a child of any age a cell phone, Dr. Jamerson recommends following guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Plan.
For children and teens:
- Never give out personal information or location online, by text or via a messaging app
- Understand that parents have a right to review call, text and chat histories regularly
- Keep total screen time to two hours a day except when doing a project for school, or when parents give you permission
- Do not watch shows or play games that are inappropriate for your age or for friends and family watching or playing with you
- Check what your kids are doing on their phones, know how to use and implement parental controls judiciously
- Let kids know before you check their phone or enable parent controls to establish an environment of openness, honesty and trust
- Take the time to be interested in what your kids are doing on their phones
- Help them make good media choices
- If your child makes a mistake, ask questions and learn what happened before punishing or taking away technology privileges
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.