Should kids have their own cell phones?


Fact Box

  • A 2019 Common Sense Media survey revealed just how much time children are spending on their phones. 'More than 7 hours a day for teens, and nearly 5 hours a day for 'tweens' ages 8-12.'
  • Research findings indicate the physical effects that cell phones have on children, from disrupted sleep to risk for obesity. Harvard studies revealed that 'children who spend more than five hours in front of a smartphone were 43 percent more likely to be obese than their peers,' while a study in Pediatrics found that 'unnatural light from screens disrupts melatonin, a hormone that influences the sleep-wake cycle, causing sleep problems.' 
  • The top cell phone pick for young kids, according to techradar, is actually a screenless device called Relay that is 'a kind of GPS-enabled walkie-talkie with push-to-talk rather than the familiar calling screen.'
  • Life360, one of the most popular family tracking apps, had over 18 million monthly active users by the end of 2018. The app, often downloaded on children's cell phones, 'functions like an enhanced version of Apple's 'Find My' feature that lets you share your location with friends or family—or what the company calls 'your Circle.' In addition to location sharing, Life360 lets family members see how fast people in their circle are driving, how much battery their cell phones have, and more.'

Joanna (Yes)

Phone ownership amongst children is a hotly debated topic in parenting circles—with potential negatives highlighted more than the inherent benefits. There are many positives to kids having cell phones, and a study revealing that 53% of kids own cell phones at age 11 reinforces that. 

One benefit of kids having their own phones has to do with safety. Between the majority of parents working and kids being busier than ever with after-school activities, parents and kids must be able to contact each other. Additionally, phones enable parents to track their kids’ whereabouts using GPS, assuring that their children are where they are supposed to be at all times. 

Cell phones also provide children with more learning opportunities. Schools are increasingly incorporating technology into education, and cell phones enable kids to participate in virtual meetings and access learning materials. Additionally, cell phones benefit students who have disabilities, such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. These disorders, which affect 1 in 6 children, can cause struggles with time management and social skills. Apps that help track time and provide socialization opportunities provide significant benefits to these children.

While there are some concerns about whether it’s safe for kids to own cell phones, parents can either adjust the parental control settings or install apps that give them control over the device. These options make it easy to view and restrict the content their kids are accessing and set time limits for phone usage. 

Not only can kids use cell phones safely, but they can learn lessons about responsibility and also have an edge in terms of education, accessibility, and socialization. 

Takashi (No)

In modern times, how we interact with each other has indeed changed. Nowadays, more and more people—many of them kids—have cell phones and use them with sometimes disastrous consequences. There are many dangers that your child could potentially be exposed to if they own a cell phone. 

Some kids have forged new friendships on the internet, but the truth of the matter is that cell phone usage can push kids into isolation. Excessive screen time can keep kids apart from friends and relatives, as children may feel more entertained with their phones than with other people. This isolation, in turn, can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression—especially if a child spends a lot of time on social media.

Phones are also a distraction for children from school demands, getting chores done, and other tasks that require focus. Schools know how diverting phones can be, and therefore some of them have tried, and succeeded, at banning them. Even many students admit that phones are very distracting.

And in terms of both mental and physical safety, cell phones present even more challenges. As unfortunate as it is, cell phone usage 'could mean more bullying online and offline.' Most of the time, kids are unprepared to recognize predators online, and if left unsupervised, they might get into one of their clutches. 

Aside from all of these issues, there's the question of what content kids are exposed to when owning a device. According to a 2018 study, 'one in five youths are seeing unwanted sexual material online.' 

Whether for safety, focus, or mental health, kids owning cell phones just isn't worth the risk. 

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