What is the Right Age for a Cell Phone?


As families start a new school year, many kids are likely asking for their own cell phone.

In fact, a new study shows most kids get a phone by the age off 11, but is that the best idea for your family?

We started at Westside YMCA pool, which was a popular spot to find families in the final days before this school year. We found a lot of people here, of all ages, on their cell phones.

9 year old Lily Anna Starmer told us most kids her age use phones for video games. She does not have her own cell phone and she says right now, while some kids her age do, she’s fine with that. Her mom however, knows the conversation will likely happen soon, “I think they could spend way too much time on it and forget about human interaction. Texting instead of talking to friends or going next door to play.”

Mary Ellen Starmer went on to say she can also see the advantages in a child having a cell phone, but that she thinks it is different for every family, “I don’t think it is just about the age. I think it is about maturity and circumstances. I think if they are home alone for a little bit and you don’t have landline, I think that is important,”

Child Therapist Kristin Bradley says Starmer has the right idea and that deciding on when your child will get a phone is more than just considering their date of birth. “I think when kids start going to movies and being more as group of friends and away from you as a parent.”

Bradley says having a phone should be about responsibility and circumstances and that parents need to start these conversations—long before phone is handed over, “Talk to them about social media: what they know about it, how they would use social media, even the financial parts of a cell phone. Going over minutes may cost extra money.”

And once you give your child a phone remember, if it’s about safety think before completely taking it away as a means of discipline, “It can send mixed messages for sure, but it is technology that kids enjoy…so it can be taken away as discipline, but then you need alternative for emergencies. What else can they use for emergency?”

You might want to consider setting data guidelines or limited access to online sites and apps for your children. And keep in mind if or how this device can be used in schools. We found in Knox county the rules change based on your child’s grade level.

We also asked about Apple watches and so far we have been told there haven’t been any major issues with them in schools, but that they will be treated just like a cell phone.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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