NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With students heading back to school, many parents wonder when is the right time to give their child a smartphone.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, the Silkowski kids have computers and iPads. But their mother said she has to draw the line somewhere for 10-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Charles.
“They have enough electronics inside that they don’t need to be outside on a cellphone,” she said.
Most teens — 85 percent of those ages 14 to 17 — have cellphones. So do 69 percent of 11- to 14-year-old, and 31 percent of kids ages 8 to 10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
So how does a parent know when a child is ready?
Pediatrician Dr. Corinn Cross said it depends on the maturity of the child, but that many families make the decision around middle school.
“Think about the situation your child is in and why you really want to get them the phone,” Cross said. “Do you want to get them the phone for safety? Do you want to get them the phone so they communicate with their friends? And then make sure they’re ready to handle the responsibility that you are giving them.”
Cross said before parents hand kids their first phone, they should sit down and set limits, such as charging the phone overnight in a common area and no texting at the dinner table.
Parents also need to discuss the dangers of cyberbullying, she said.
“I think that is a good thing to say: ‘I have a right to look and see if you are sending inappropriate texts,'” Cross said. “So don’t do anything that you would be embarrassed by me seeing.”
Jack said many of his friends have smartphones, but he’s OK with just his iPad for now.
“The only person I’m really texting is my best friend about ‘Minecraft,'” he said.
Experts say if parents do get a cellphone for their younger children, they really should do their research and set up safety controls.