When it comes to deciding when to give your child a cell phone, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The median age for introducing a mobile device varies from country to country. In the United States, the median age at which children receive their first cell phone is 10 years old. However in Europe the average age is 12, and in Asia it is 14.
Before making any decisions about when to give your child a phone, it is important to research potential negative effects associated with over use of phones and social media accounts. These include poor exposure to inappropriate content online, habit forming behavior around technology usage, negative impacts on sleep, and social issues that may arise via cyber-bullying or social media.
Our therapists often encourage families to set clear boundaries and expectations around the use of cell phones. This includes limiting time spent online, setting appropriate safety measures (such as parental controls), and encouraging social interactions outside of technology.
The decision of when to give your child their first phone is highly personal; you know your child best, so trust your instincts about what is right for them. Weighing all the pros and cons will help guide your decision. Just because your child’s peers have a phone, doesn’t mean its right for your family.
Possible Drawbacks From Providing Your Child A Cell Phone
- Poor exposure to inappropriate content (mature content etc)
- Habit forming behavior around technology usage
- Withdrawing from “real life” peer interactions
- Negative impacts on sleep
- Social issues (cyber-bullying etc)
- Increased depression and anxiety (this has been indicated in several studies)
- Possible decrease in social skills and self-esteem
Possible Benefits From Providing Your Child A Cell Phone
- Communication between child and parents when child is at school, with peers etc.
- Enhanced digital literacy
- Opportunities to explore interests via apps and websites Peace of mind for parents when it comes to their child’s safety.
Some possible alternatives
- Only providing your child a cellphone when separating from parent as a communication device
- Giving children phones without internet browsing capabilities
- Giving children phones without social media apps
- Giving phones with prior written “family contract” explaining all limits and expectations
- Limiting time spent on technology each day
Choosing when to give your child a phone is a personal decision and their is no “rule book” on when is the best time, or which method is the best way. It is important to consider the possible risks associated with providing a cell phone as well as potential benefits. We recommend setting boundaries and expectations for your child that are age appropriate, giving them necessary tools to be safe online and offline, and trusting your parental instincts when it comes to making these types of decisions.
At GroundWork our child therapists will work with parents and children to set boundaries around technology, create rewards plans that help foster a different relationship with technology devices, and help children to create balance in their lives via exploring other healthy actives outside.
Several recent studies have indicated that children that spend more time on social media have increased rates of depression and anxiety. If you are concerned that technology usage is impacting your child’s mental health or social life, it may be helpful to book an appointment with one of our CBT therapists who can help explore these concerns further and develop a tailored plan for your family.
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**Disclaimer: The content provided is intended as general educational information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have regarding your child’s health and wellbeing. **