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Kids and Cellphones: When Should My Child Get A Phone? Parents Guide

Is Your Child Ready for 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!"

Parents, it's a great question and here are some things to consider as you decide when you should let your child have their very own cellphone.

  • There's a critical link between phone and tablet use and Sleep-which is so important to teens especially.  A recently released study found these interesting correlations:
  1. One or more cordless phone calls/week was associated with a lower sleep quality
  2. Habitual and frequent problematic mobile phone use was associated with a lower sleep quality
  3. Higher tablet use was associated with decreased sleep efficiency and increased minutes of wake time after sleep onset
  • There are also health effects from the luminous blue light that comes from all digital screens.  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
  • Then there's the social-emotional issues for your kids that come with having what I like to refer to as  their "most personal, personal possession. " a cellphone of their own.  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.

  • 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.  And in released in late 2018 If you want to go deep into understanding RF, please consult our Guide.
  • 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.  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. 

Bad or Good, 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.  In France, educators have decided that kids under 15 shouldn't have them in schools.  They have been banned there for age 15 and under since September of 2018.

In addition, many teachers and school administrators have said cellphones are hugely distracting in schools, and teachers have a hard enough time getting students to concentrate in the first place. 

For health and safety reasons, we think it's best to wait until middle school. However, every parent has to weigh the pros and cons and make their own decisions.

When it is Time, Consider a Flip Phone. Make Good Smartphone Boundaries

If you do choose for them to have a phone, allow them to have it at home 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.

Flip phones do emit all the same RF radiation that smartphones do by the way, IF they are BlueTooth enabled, WiFi enabled.  And of course, all phones emit cellphone radiation.  But when a phone is off or does not have the Bluetooth or WiFi enabled, there are less radiation sources. The real reason to consider a flip phone is that your child won't be tempted to surf the internet, airdrop, watch youtube and dive into the world of social media on a device that goes everywhere with them.

Help Kids Make Good Choices When They're On Technology

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.  So here's checklist of items as you mentor and instruct your child on what they need to know when they have a  phone of their own.

  • 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.
      • 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.
      • Educate them on social media perils. 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 sometime 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
      • 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.
      • snap chat scam ad
      Here's one my niece sent me from her SnapChat Feed

        • Have an Internet contract and limit or don't allow social media platforms where communication disappears after sending. It’s not only unsafe for predators, it makes it hard to prove or track cyber-bullying
        • 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 guide
        • Encourage them to use airplane mode when playing games taking photos. This way they will avoid unnecessary RF radiation exposure.
        • kids cellphone holder with straps
        • 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.  We use a case with straps--a backpack with the phone in the back pocket.
        • 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
        • 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.
        • 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. Here are others:
          • My Mobile Watchdog: The parents dashboard, accesses text messages, contacts, call logs, block apps and websites, locate your child+more
          • 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 Locationand speed tracker blocks phone use based on speed of driving, sends notifications, allows emergency calls.

         

        Tech Wellness will update this list as we find them and review these tracker apps. If you're giving your child an iPhone the new IOS has a great password protectied ScreenTime feature that allows you to block certain apps and set time limits for all phone use including Social Media .

        Hope you enjoyed this guide, please let us know if you have any additional insight we can provide our readers.

        Be Well!

        August

         

         

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