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The Best Age To Get A Kid A Phone. Here's How To Decide When.
As a parent it's one of the most important decisions you'll make, how old will your child be when they get a cellphone.
From Cyber issues to Social Media FOMO to plain old distraction, there are many things to think about when you're child proclaims, "Mom, I want a phone!"
Here's what some note-worthy celebs said about when a kid should have a phone.
Bill Gates said the best age to get a phone was 14.
“We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier.”
The head of Samsung Mobile in the UK recently said his daughter didn't get a phone until she was 11 year old.
Pink, said her daughter Willow is the only 11 year old in her class without a phone.
"If you can produce any reputable source that shows me social media is good for you- then you can have one." she said in a recent interview.
How much do I love Pink!
Tim Cook, the CEO Of Apple, recently made headlines when he told GQ that kids are now born digital and "guard rails need to put in place."
When you get your kid a phone and the rules around how and when they use it can be the guard rails you and your family can put in to place to protect your child.
The latest survey found most kids had phone by age 14.
Common Sense Media updated their amazing Tweens, Teens and Media report in 2021 and found that by age 14 91% of all kids have thier own phone. Still you can see from the graph that some parents are holding out til 18, while a full 31% are giving their kids their own phone when they're just 8 years old.
Why Your Kid Should Have A Phone
- Connection. You can and talk to them, text them and find them
- Their Friends Do. It's real. Social Comparison and "fitting in" can be important to your kids and you.
Research To Help You Decide How When Your Child Should Get A Phone
•New Data Shows that the Younger A Child Is When They Get A Cellphone, The Greater The Odds Of Mental Health Distress
- Sapien Labs hasn't published peer- reviewed paper yet, but the data from over 27,000 young adults is eye-opening!! The results form young adults who took this Mental Health Assessment show a strong correlation between the age at which children receive their first smartphone and the status of their mental health.
- The study also compared females and males and found overall that lower self-worth, motivation and resilience was higher among females compared to males.
- The researchers ask the question, "At what age did you get your own smartphone or tablet-with Internet access that you could carry with you?" Then, with data from the many mental health questions, they determine mental health distress, looking at categories of:
- Mood and Outlook,
- Social Self
- Resilience and Adaptability
- Drive and Motivation
- Mind Body Connection
Look at this graph from the report. How crazy is it to see the number of kids who got a phone as young as six years old! Also, the fact that so many young people are distressed or struggling mentally is incredibly heart breaking.
You probably have also heard experts say there isn't a link between when a kid gets a phone and their mental health. This Stanford Study found no link to mental health, sleep problems or grades as it followed 250 low income Latino children for 5 years. But interestingly, the kids were relatively older when they got their first phone:
- 25% of children received phones by age 10.7, and
- 75% by age 12.6. Nearly all children had phones by age 15 years.
- The Average age a child got their first phone was 11.5
There are many studies that now show a link between the amount of time kids are on screens- including cellphones and the kids mental health.
Between 2011 and 2021 Teens With Clinical Depression Doubled. Suicide rates for 10-14 year olds tripled.
- A new study links greater Screen Use by Kids 9–10 years statistically predicted higher levels of internalizing two years later.
Studies Implicate Smartphone and Social Media Use In The Increase In Self Injury and Suicide Among Youth
- 2020 study out of Canada, reviewed many previous studies and concluded, “Evidence from a variety of cross-sectional, longitudinal and empirical studies implicate smartphone and social media use in the increase in mental distress, self-injurious behaviour and suicidality among youth; there is a dose–response relationship, and the effects appear to be greatest among girls."
As a mom or dad, you may find yourself wondering if your child has developed or will develop things like Phantom Vibration Syndrome, that's where a phone is set to vibrate and even if it doesn't you think it does. Robert Rosenberger from the Georgia Tech wrote a paper pointing out how prevalent it actually is-noting that in two studies, 70 to 90 percent of participants reported they had experienced it. Or maybe they'll end up with the popular Nomophobia, a severe mobile phone induced anxiety, it can happen because of the dopamine/cortisol effect.
Or they may have to deal with FOMO, Fear of Missing out- which happens when kids see what their friends are doing and are stressed because they're not doing it--or weren't asked to participate. As an adult it's hard to deal with seeing someone "appear" to have more or really have more and not get into a negative and depressing comparison cycle, so imagine how difficult it could be for your child.
•There's Also a Critical Link Between Phone and Tablet Use and Less Sleep
- A recently released study found these interesting correlations:
- One or more cordless phone calls/week was associated with a lower sleep quality
- Habitual and frequent problematic mobile phone use was associated with a lower sleep quality
- Higher tablet use was associated with decreased sleep efficiency and increased minutes of wake time after sleep onset
•Grade School Students Who Have Cellphones Are More Likely To Be Cyberbullied
This large study found kids in who owned cell phones were significantly more likely to report being a victim of cyberbullying, especially in grades 3 and 4. Sadly, 9.5 percent of children reported being cyberbullied.
•Looking at the Phone Screen Can Cause Eye Strain, Myopia And Effect Melatonin
When your child has a cellphone, chances are they'll be looking at that screen a lot! When they do, they're exposed to intense blue light that can effect their vision and their sleep cycles and even contribute to metabolism changes and insulin resistance. To learn the latest on what blue light can do to our bodies, here's everything you need to know
•Research Shows The Invisible EMF that Powers The Phone Is Linked To Cancer, Fertility Issues and Sleep Problems Among Other Biological Effects.
- Just like adults, kids are exposed to Radio Frequency(RF) radiation and that's a concern for their growing/developing bodies and brains. Their skulls are less thick and their brains are smaller and cell phone radiation penetrates more deeply as a result. If you want to go deep into understanding RF, please consult our EMF Guide.
It's important that kids use Wired Headphones Or Speaker Phone. The Best Idea Are These SaferTech Air Tube Headphones That Stop Radiation From Going Directly Into Your Kid's Ears
•Smartphone addiction starts with a smartphone!
- We've all seen kids literally glued to their phones. Some may in fact have developed a biological "need" or dependence on their phones that can result in depression, anxiety and many other classic indicators of addictions.
- Steve Jobs told a New York Times Reporter that he limited his kids iPhone and iPad use because he didn't want them to get addicted.
- Dr. Kimberly Young, internet addiction expert has given Tech Wellness her Smartphone Addiction test and a list of symptoms . Dr. Young advises a "Digital Diet," and remembering that our phones are "treats" and not the veggies, protein or healthy fruits we need to sustain ourselves and be healthy and productive.
Short of addiction there are real ailments that can occur like Phantom Vibration Syndrome, that's where a phone is set to vibrate and even if it doesn't you think it does. Robert Rosenberger from the Georgia Tech wrote a paper pointing out how prevalent it actually is-noting that in two studies, 70 to 90 percent of participants reported they had experienced it. There's also something called Nomophobia, a severe mobile phone induced anxiety, it can happen because of the dopamine/cortisol effect.
Many parents tell mee can't get the phone out of their kids hands. Sometimes their kids are suffering from FOMO, Fear of Missing out- which happens when kids see what their friends are doing and are stressed because they're not doing it--or weren't asked to participate. As an adult it's hard to deal with seeing someone "appear" to have more or really have more and not get into a negative and depressing comparison cycle, so imagine how difficult it could be for your child.
•The Mere Presence Of A Smartphone Meant Lower Test Scores In This Study
Whether You Believe Smartphones Are Good Or Bad For Kids, They're A Big Part OF Our Modern World- When Should Your Child Have One?
Every parent needs to make that decision. It's so great to be able to locate and communicate with your child--anytime or all the time. To know where they are with location services can bring so much peace of mind, but think about how your Mom and Dad managed when you were a kid.
Dr. Young thinks kids under 3 shouldn't even see a screen as it inhibits normal development. Most parents agree that kids shouldn't have their own phones before age 10.
Carrie James, author of Behind The Screens says she gave her daughter a phone when she was in 6th Grade because, "We wanted to have a sense of assurance that we knew we could be in reach of our children" she told the Hoda and Jenna show.
SHOW KIDS THE EFFECTS OF EMF RADIATION WITH THIS SCIENCE FAIR KIT - SEE HOW WIFI RADIATION IMPACTS MICROGREEN GROWTH
Connection and the ability to track their kids is a common reason parents decide to let their child have a phone when their young.
But more and more parents are deciding to delay giving their kids a phone before 8th grade.
Wait Until 8 has groups of parents take a pledge to wait and give their kids a phone until 8th grade. They find it's easier for the kids and parents when they have support and have friends who don't have cellphones until the last year of junior high.
In France, educators have decided that kids under 15 shouldn't have them in schools.
Cellphones in Classrooms in France have been banned for students age 15 and under since September of 2018.
I think every parent knows a teacher or school administrator that has said cellphones are hugely distracting in schools, and teachers have a hard enough time getting students to concentrate in the first place.
California was the first state to let schools have the option of banning phones from classrooms and now states all over the country are following suit. Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan and Virginia are joining in to keep cellphones out of schools.
For health and safety reasons, we think it's best to wait until your kid is at least 13. Beyond would be even better.
This is a good time to point out that it is not legal to have a social media account before age 13. The Surgeon General recenty said that was even too young.
However, every parent has to weigh the pros and cons and make their own decisions.
Here are two parents that made the decision to wait on giving their kids phones.
Jennifer Sitterud caught my attention with her Screen Free Summer program. She's as wise as she is beautiful and when she talked about summers without screens, on our podcast she also talked about her oldest teen who didn't have a phone at all.
"He told me that all the other kids parents are always interrupting them, mom's call with reminders and things to do right in the middle of our baseball games" Jennifer point out that her kids have that sense of independence and freedom that we had as kids. There not being chased or tracked or being interupted in class.
There are a few delightful benefits of not having a cellphone- no matter what your age.
- Freedom- To not be tethered
- Independence- To not be tracked or interrupted
- Presence- Being In The Moment
- Situational Awareness- The Ability To Participate With Your Environment
- Self Awareness. The opportunity to reflect vs being engaged
Because he didn't have a cellphone or Air Pods or gaming device Dillon Reeves a 12 year old from Warren saved a school bus when the driver had a seizure. Steve Reeves his dad hopes this is a save-the-world kind of lesson. Kids are wildy distracted. Continuously distracted.
Dillon's dad made the decision to wait to give his son a cellphone. Dillon is in the 7th grader. His Dad says not having a phone gives you the opportunity to look at people and look out the window.
Think about the opportunites your child will have if you wait for the best age to give them a phone.
At What Age Will Your Kid Thrive With a Phone Of Their Own?
Back in 2020 Pew Research did a study on parents attitudes about kids and cellphones. This was before a lot of the research about kids and cellphones has crystalized just how dangerous they can be to a childs well being.
When asked about the appropriate age for a child to have their own tablet, parents are more accepting of children having one at a younger age. Fully 65% of parents say it is acceptable for child to have their own tablet computer before the age of 12.
However, It was telling that the report noted that "Parents who have at least one minor child but who may also have adult children weighed in on whether they thought the use of smartphones by young children would help or hurt their ability to do a variety of things such as develop healthy friendships or do well in school."
Listen to this: An entire 71% of parents said that giving a cellphone to a child 11 or youner could hurt their ability to lear social and and interpersonal skills and make it harder to do well in school!
Thought Starters For Your Decision On The Best Age To Get Your Child A Phone
- Do you trust them to be independent and safe without a phone?
- Do they communicate well with you?
- Are they currently controlling their own screen time according to your wishes?
- Do you have time to spend time with them on their phones? Navigating the full functions of a phone is at least as complicated as learning to drive
When it is Time, Consider a Flip Phone or a Limited Function Phone - BUT Know That They Really are NOT Safe Tech.
When I think of safer technology, I think of less radiation, less WiFi, less Bluetooth. Remember when a phone was simply a cellphone? Some Flip phones allow you to turn off Bluetooth, but unfortunately, most Flip phones do have Bluetooth and most don't have WiFi functionality which is a good thing.
Flip phones and Limited Function Phones like The Light Phone, Mudita, Gabb Wireless and Pinwheel ALL emit all the same RF radiation or EMF that all cellphones emit- from their antenna. Remember, cellphone "shielding cases" can actually make that exposure higher. There's good research on this.
For the Tech Wellness Review of the Gabb and Pinwheel Phones please read here
If the phone also has a BlueTooth function and a WiFi function than it is as power packed with EMF radiation as any smartphone.
Empower them with healthy phone habits and boundaries
If and when you do choose to give your child any phone, remember the phone belongs to YOU. It's really your responsibility and it is in your control.
Some Best Practices To Use It With Their Health In Mind:
- Let them know it's a privilege rather than a right and when at home, position is as a "treat" between homework and sleeping.
- Children should never have a cell phone (or any technology) in their room when they are trying to sleep. It's a distraction and the blue light is an inhibitor to healthy sleep. Plus that wireless RF we talked about earlier is electrical energy that interferes with their body's own electrical energy.
- Keep the family table a device free zone. A device is a distraction from healthy meals, family time and peaceful and proper digestion.
- Children(and you) should use Blue Light Blockers in some form at all times. Children should use Amber or Orange tinted wrap around Blue Blockers anytime it's dark while their using their phones.
Tons Of Tips to help Kids Make Good Choices With Tech
We have 20 tips to consider as you hand off the phone to your child-but with all these suggestions, it's really important that Mom and Dad are highly involved.
My kids learned a whole lot more from me when I showed them vs told them. Devorah Heitner, PHD, author of Raising Digital Natives advises parents Mentor vs Monitor what their kids are doing on their phones.
Ways To Guide Your Child's Cellphone Journey
- Make sure they know not to use WiFi hotspots or public networks to save data. Public WiFi is a privacy and cyber-security concern.
- Make sure they use a pin/thumbprint. Kids are notoriously bad at responsibility when it comes to possessions and phones can be stolen, especially at school.
- Let them know that there cellphones and laptops run on wireless energy. Since it has been shown to bother some peoples bodies--just like LOUD music can hurt their ears--we can turn down the energy by keeping it out of hands, out of pockets and away from beds as much as possible
- Make sure that location services are disabled in all apps-except a tracking app you may wish to use.
- Technology can be a TIME SUCK. You know this but a kid who's just getting started doesn't. Please help them manage their time and avoid addictions by timing their phone use. You can use Screen Time apps that come with most phones to set up limits. But to start, use a timer, not just one on the phone. Visual Timers are best, because they can help kids see clearly(and take their eyes off the phone for a moment) how much time has passed and how much is left. We offer two Tech Timers. Large and a cute Small Blue or Red or Black.
- Make sure they know how to spot fraudulent text messages and calls, and know not to respond.
- Make sure they don’t list their school on their social media profiles.
- Make sure you have their logins. Monitor their social media periodically.
- Have A Social Media Success Plan. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Solidify an understanding that everything and every word they post can be shared and even if they have privacy settings, any post can be shared everywhere by simply taking a screenshot.
- Spend some time on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram with them. Sit with them as they go through their social feeds, and do this as often as you can. If you see them following someone that's not really a friend and their feeling too much FOMO or following them makes them feel bad, show them how easy it is to choose not to follow that person
- Talk early and often to them about the pitfalls of sharing intimate photos with ANYONE, even people they trust and how those situations can go horribly wrong.
- If you see them get bullied you can show them how to block certain followers, or it may be best to block comments altogether until the bullying is under control.
- Point out the sometimes "scammy" ads and show them why they should not click them.
- Every app downloaded is one more app that could be a privacy concern. Remember apps have the ability to monitor what you do on them.
- We think it's a great idea to delete apps when not in use anymore, as some apps gather data on you to sell to marketers.
- Use privacy settings on Facebook and Snapchat and apps to manage what about you is shared and who sees it – and turn off any permissions that aren’t absolutely necessary. We've got an amazing Privacy Guide
- Encourage them to use airplane mode when playing games taking photos. This way they will avoid unnecessary RF radiation exposure.
APPS AND GAMES THAT DON'T NEED WIFI OR CELL SERVICE--Great If You're Child Has Their Own Phone or Not!
Please take a moment to review our incredible guide and review of 25 Apps and Games that don't need WiFi - updated for 2021.
This Link Take You To The Ones That Are Great For Kids 11 and Up. Each has a link to download The App in a Free Version that they can play offline!
- Encourage them to keep the cell phone out of pockets and hands. Apple's user manual recommends that the phone is kept from a quarter to a half inch away from your body. A backpack with the phone in the back pocket is a good practice. And Tix Tox influencers are making Phone Leashes a trend!
- Give them a pair of radiation-free Air-tube headsets or make sure they use the cell phone only on speaker mode when they make a call.
- Invest in a Faraday They're portable and effective. A little pricey, but worth the investment; it means no radiation and zero distractions. And we have this Value Faraday
- Ask the teacher first, if you it's okay to bring the phone to school. Her space, her rules. I talk about one teachers POV in this story on Cellphones In Schools
- A few moms have told me how much they love Our Pact. It's an app that allows them to keep tract and partially control their kids cellphones. Personally, I'm not a fan of monitoring Apps because they get all your child's data. It's a big privacy issue that concerns me. At the very least, please don’t release your child’s real name or birth date to these apps. There’s no good reason they must have this information.
- Also, like most of the experts in the digital and tech wellness space, I think you should look at your child's phone- with your child- as much as you possibly can. Yes, review texts and browsing, but talk to you kids about what you're seeing and make recommendations. Still want to monitor? Here are some other ideas.
- My Mobile Watchdog: The parents dashboard, accesses text messages, contacts, call logs, block apps and websites, locate your child+more
- Bark monitors 30+ platforms like all the social media apps, browsers, text messages, emails, and looks through the activity for signs of harmful interactions and content.
MamaBear Monitors social media including bullying language, restricted words you set on Insta, Twitter or Facebook -plus someone new, or someone new follows them on Twitter Your child is tagged or @mentioned in a message, or checks in at a location on Facebook etc. and is a location tracker
Drive Safe Mode Location and speed tracker blocks phone use based on speed of driving, sends notifications, allows emergency calls.
If you're giving your child an iPhone consider simply using a great password and setting up ScreenTime. It allows you to block certain apps and set time limits for all phone use including Social Media - use it and review the findings with your kids. It's really enlightening to see what's being used and for how long.
Hope you enjoyed this guide, please let us know if you have any additional insight we can provide our readers.
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