Do 6-year-olds need cell phones?

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 survey by 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

For parents:

  • 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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  1. As far as I’m concerned, even teenagers shouldn’t have cell phones — witness the recent news reports about how much texting teens do while driving, EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW THERE’S A CAMERA ON IN THE CAR MONITORING THEM! How stupid is that?! Who are these idiot parents who give their kindergarteners cell phones??? Or for that matter, any child under the age of 16? All elementary and high schools should ban everyone but possibly seniors from bringing cell phones to school, and even then, cell phones should remain locked in lockers until classes are over for the day. There’s no good reason for kids to have cell phones until they’re at least 16 or 17. Ban them for kids, and you’ll prevent a lot of accidents on the road and a lot of distraction in class. Not to mention mischief.

    • I can see kids having the phones for safety, mine at a young age needed it in an emergency and it saved his life, yes they do need to be goverened also maturly used. There is always bad and good sides to all things and this is another.

    • I remembered when I was in high school, my parents confiscated my phone because I was too obsessed with it. However, my parents almost had to call the police because I was nowhere to be found. In fact, I didn’t have money on me so I couldn’t call my parents for the problems that I encountered. I ended up going home later than usual and my parents were scolding me, because I scared the crap out of them. It didn’t happen only once though. Somehow, it happens every time my parents are confiscating my phone. I always walked alone, because my dad was going to work and my mom is picking my sister up. I didn’t bring money because I wasn’t aloud to so I couldn’t make phone calls. I didn’t even have the courage of asking a random person to lend their phone to me so I can make a call to my parents. I didn’t happen very often, but I always had trouble, such as the rain, the bus is late, the metro broke down or because I always sleep during my trip back home and sometimes overslept. So, I needed a phone or I’d end up worrying my parents.

    • Preach it brother

  2. My child is almost 6 and will be getting a cell ohine soon. She has severe food allergies which can be difficult to manage now that shes at school or friends. Witha cell phone she can snap a picture and i can tellnher yes or no. She can also call me ehen she bedds to do or call for an emergency god forbid. We have found that relying on adults around ger for permission to use a phone has failed us. I dont really care what anyone thinks as long as my child can reach out to me and she is safer.

  3. The math makes no sense. The average age is 6 years old, and only 53% of the kids get their phones when they’re 7.

  4. I think getting a phone for a child under 10 is completely unnecessary. The only thing your 9-year-old will use their phone for is games. If your kid wants a device to play games on, give them an iPad instead. For your kid’s first phone give them a used phone, not the latest iPhone. My first phone was my dad’s old iPhone 6. After that my parents got me a new iPhone 12 for Christmas after I was proven responsible enough to own a good phone.

  5. My concern is from a medical standpoint. There were no comments made by the physician about EMF radiation given off by phones, blue light emitted from phones, phone addiction or just general technology addiction our society already struggles with and now parents are exposing their kids to all of this at such a young age. It affects their physical health, mental health, cognitive development, etc Sad.

  6. i often go to public places such as restaurants and see people with small children, 2 – 6, using cell phones as babysitters. they may be old phones that the child watches their favorite cartoons and videos but it gets them used to having the electronic device to detract them. many of these children grow up not being able to go anywhere or do anything without the distraction.

    • Sue, yes! I am convinced that a large number of our ADHD diagnoses are from this exact thing! You give a kid a bright moving screen to pacify them and then wonder why they can’t sit still in a classroom or looking at a book. So frustrating.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.