At What Age Should Kids Be Trusted With A Smartphone?
Recent research says more than a third of all 10 to 13 year olds in the United States have their own smartphones.
But having a smartphone means having a lot of freedom at your fingertips. Are kids at that age prepared to handle the responsibility of that much technology?
The 7th and 8th graders we talked to at Pulaski Heights Middle School aren't afraid to admit their smartphones are a big part of their life. Seventh grader Anna LaGrone said, "I love my phone, but I'm a teenage girl so I guess that comes with the package. I get on Facebook, Instagram. I play a lot of apps."
"So, I spend a lot of time on my phone. I really do. I'm always talking to my friends. I'm always texting," said Garry Liu, an eighth grader.
These students say more than 50% of their peers have smartphones. It's become the popular gift to receive for birthdays and Christmas.
"I think at first when you first open that present on Christmas, you have that little rush, that you can do anything with this phone," said Anna. "But then once you start playing on it that really doesn't matter anymore. You're more focused in on what you're friends are doing or what you're going to do tonight, when you're going to go to the mall next. That takes your attention away from all of the bad things you could do unless that's your personality and you've done that before."
It's those bad things that hold some parents back from giving smartphones to their kids. From sexting to cyberbullying to online predators, Carol Robinson, an internet safety instructor for the attorney general's office, said there are countless risks kids can encounter with smartphones.
"They just need to realize that putting this type of technology in their hands is every bit as powerful as a computer, a laptop, an ipad, those types of things," she said.
The students we sampled are all academic achievers who say they would never use their phones inappropriately, but some have still been exposed to dangerous behavior.
Eighth grader Josh Gonazalez shared, "I've seen a lot of bullying on phones, like text messaging."
Another eighth grader, Whitnee Thompson said, "I was at one of my friends' parties and a boy send a nude photo to her."
It's those situations that prompt Sharon Long, education coordinator for Centers For Youth And Families to say there isn't a magic age that makes a smartphone safe for kids, but the older the child - the better.
She said, "A good rule of thumb is that a high school student that would be 9th grade or older is developmentally getting to the point where they can handle the responsibility of having that access to internet and that access to their own personal smartphone."
Centers For Youth And Families is currently offering a parenting class for tweens and teens that tackles some of the issues involved with giving your child a smartphone. For more information, click here.