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When Should I Give My Child a Smart Phone?

Think talking to your child about sex is difficult? Consider the many responsibilities associated with giving them their own smart phone – particularly since a smartphone might link your child to pornography.

During the holiday season, kids of all ages plead for their first mobile devices. How do you know when your child is ready?

There are apps to block youngsters from viewing “grown up” topics, even when accidentally accessed. Since ways around them can be sought, Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, co-chair of pediatrics at ARC, recently told the Austin American-Statesman parents really need to be ready to discuss with kids dangers lurking online.

“If you see a naked body, it that OK? If you see violence against other people, is that OK?” Dr. Knapp suggests parents ask their children before handing them a cellphone. “It opens up a Pandora’s box about viewing.”

Is There a ‘Right’ Age?

Dr. Knapp proposes that you will know when it is the right time when you are ready to talk about what they might see online.

She encourages parents to establish rules for phone usage, such as making sure they still have face-to-face conversations and relationships, not just virtual ones. Dr. Knapp also suggests taking phones out of bedrooms an hour before lights out at night to ensure children’s sleep isn’t disturbed by friends who text, Snapchat or even call too late at night.

Why? Because missing just 30-60 minutes of sleep at night can impact a child’s mood and ability to form healthy relationships.

Look for indicators of your child’s overall sense of responsibility, she suggests. For example, if a child isn’t mature enough to stick by “the rules” for keeping school paperwork organized, can they abide by your smartphone rules?

Parents cannot depend on apps to block everything inappropriate or dangerous. Dr. Knapp warns, “Every app can be misused. It has to be a conversation about what we do as a family, what we value.”

Questions to Guide These Talks

  • Why do you want a smart phone?
  • Do you understand and agree to family and school rules for using your smart phone?
  • Do you understand why these rules are in place?

Of course, there are positives when it comes to children having cell phones, Knapp acknowledges. Talking about them, too, is important as family members discuss and decide together about when a child gets a phone.

See the Austin American-Statesman story here.

Tags: Pediatrics, Austin American-Statesman, Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, , smart phones, Cell Phones

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