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When Should a Child have a Cellphone?

As I sat at dinner, staring across the table at my husband engrossed in his cellphone, scrolling through Twitter, I briefly daydreamed of life before cell phones. That simple time before smartphones and all of the technology that surrounds us today. That got me thinking, when should a child have a cellphone?

According to an article on WebMD, twice as many children have cell phones today versus 2004.

Cellphones and children can be a dangerous mix if not managed properly.

Every child is different and matures at his or her own pace. Although, in an emergency situation, a cellphone can be incredibly beneficial.

A cellphone gives a child a voice and encourages open communication. However, at what cost?

There are many factors to consider before giving your child a cellphone.

Below are just a few:

The ease of being able to contact your child on their cellphone at any time is reassuring, but could it also be damaging to them?

Let’s walk through mental developmental milestones children reach at various ages. This will give us a clearer picture of when a cellphone for a child may be appropriate.

developmental milestones to consider before giving a child a cellphone

At the age of 6?

Around the age of 6, the average child will begin to experience a fast growth in mental ability. At this age, children are able to complete full sentences and follow a small series of commands.

They will adapt the ability to make jokes and puns, and understand jokes when hearing them from others. At age 6, children are learning to read and are quickly picking up on communication around them.

However, there are some red flag factors at this age that could heighten in intensity if a child had a cellphone.

As children learn to read and joke with others, they are also picking up on feelings that others possess around them.

Worry, stress, fear are all feelings children at the age of 6 will begin to feel, but may not yet understand. A cellphone is a very distracting device and may not sync well with a child’s ability to shift through their emotions, preventing them from learning to express how they feel to others, particularly adults.

Another major external factor children are experiencing at this age is bullying. While they may not be fully aware of bullying at this age, they are beginning to pick up on cues from other’s behaviors. When deciding when to provide a cellphone for a 6-year-old, additional exposure to others is pivotal to take into consideration.

At the age of 8?

Now, let’s jump 2 years forward and evaluate the average mental ability for an 8-year-old. When considering a cellphone for a child of 8 years old, there are new factors to consider.

At this age, children have much stronger reading skills. They begin to understand words have more than one meaning and can be used in different contexts.

8-year-old children begin to write content and read content. At this stage, they are no longer just putting words together, but are forming series of sentences and can read a full short-story. They may adapt a sense of humor at this age, as well as express their emotions verbally.

8-year-old children understand the concept of bullying and are becoming self-aware of their own bodies.

This is a particularly difficult time for some children as they may feel the pressure of trying to fit in, but are still not mature enough to “read a room” or pick up on social cues. Handing a cellphone to an 8-year-old could intensify bullying and encourage them to overly obsess on what others are doing.

 For example, if they have access to data, they may focus on videos or online images of “the perfect body type” and think this is what they will need to achieve to fit in at school, or around friends. At this age, they are still not fully self-aware to piece together everyone is unique and different.

At the age of 10, should a child have a cellphone?

Evaluating giving a cellphone to a 10-year-old is where we will focus next. At 10 years old, children are on the cusp of puberty. Some may have already begun puberty, where some may still be a ways from it.

Children at this age can feel embarrassment and regret. They know how to handle conflict and begin to have more and more of a voice.

This is a big step for relationship building with their peers and their parents as well. This is also the time when children begin to develop attitudes and learn to negotiate with others to achieve results they are seeking.

Cliques will develop within classrooms and off school campuses. Both boys and girls will begin to develop their own identity and identify with those who are similar to them.

Children with a cellphone at this age may find it difficult to detach from. They may focus solely on communicating with friends through this device, and slowly fail at learning to communicate in person. Relationships with peers is critical at this age, and focusing on fitting in can easily become an obsessive focus.

At the age of 12, should a child have a cellphone?

Now, what about a 12-year-old? At the age of 12, children are able to question their values. They have learned how to stand up for what is right and are encouraged to speak up when something is wrong.

Peer pressure is in full force at this age. Self-awareness is vividly at play and children are becoming more and more independent.

At this age, children may act like an adult, but it is important to understand that they are still maturing and their brain has yet to fully develop.

Anxiety if a child is given a cellphone

12-year-olds are able to switch emotions radically, this is highly due to hormone levels developing and changing. They may experience periods of excitement, followed by sudden feelings of sadness or depression.

However, a cellphone for a child at 12 years old is more acceptable than that of the younger ages covered above.

Children mature at all different ages, and you will know when the right time comes to provide your child a cellphone

Keeping in mind, providing a cellphone for a child at any age exposes them to a lot of external factors you as a parent cannot control. Be it internet surfing or social media.

Setting clear and defined boundaries is key when considering a cellphone for a child. Openly discussing what is acceptable and explaining that it can be taken away if those boundaries are crossed. Children will understand boundaries at a young age, but have an even better understanding at the age of 12 and older.

It is also important to teach your child that cellphones are valuable, and must be kept in good care at all times. Maturity should be considered before providing anything of great monetary value to your child.

An option I am very much considering when the time comes, is a Smart Watch which can be purchased on Amazon. It has a call feature and camera. It is waterproof and safe for kids to use while on the go, a.k.a. it can handle the daily hustle and bustle of a child.

Children mature at all different ages, and you will know when the right time comes to provide your child a cellphone. When considering all of the factors above, be sure you continue and encourage open dialogue with your child once they have a cellphone. 

Whatever you do, do not let the cellphone replace face to face communication with your child.

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Xoxo – Kimberly

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