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When Should Kids Have Cell Phones?

October 26, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

When Should Kids Have Cell Phones?

Cell phones are everywhere these days and kids want them. While the technology can help your children learn, it can also negatively impact their health.

Child development experts say children can spend too much time on their cell phones instead of sleeping or getting exercise. Too much cell phone talk can also prevent then from learning how to properly communicate with people in person.
So at what age should you allow your kid to have a cell phone?

Thirteen-year-old Harrison Backer enjoys playing games on his iPhone 4, along with keeping in contact with friends.

"Just texting people," Harrison said.

Most of his friends have had the technology for a couple years.

"Probably fifth grade or so," Harrison said.

Backer just got his cell phone this year.

"When he was driving, he would for sure need a cell phone just to have it in the car to be safe, and then we just caved a little early," mother Marnie Backer said.

Before your child gets a cell phone, experts say there are several things you should consider. First, why does your child need a cell phone?

"I wouldn't go toward, 'because everyone in my class has one.' That's what I hear frequently.  But to really think when can we use this phone, why should we use it?  How many calls can you take at what times?"  Sanford Family Life Educator Jodi Rysavy said.

Rysavy says there's not a magic age for when your child should be allowed to have a cell phone.

"It really basically depends on a child's maturity and their areas of responsibility," Rysavy said.

Rysavy also says you need to have a conversation with your children so they don't get in trouble with sexting or online predators. Also, make sure they don't get too attached to the technology.

"When we use cell phones, texting and applications, you lose that sense of communication. It all becomes based on technology, and you're not as focused," Rysavy said.

Marnie says her son so far has been responsible, and she actually feels like he's safer.

"It's been nice to be able to get in contact with him, especially because he's in a lot of school sports. If he needs rides or even in the morning when I go to work before him, he can call me on his way to school, so I know he's safely on the way," Marnie said.

So what is the right age? Expert say there really isn't one perfect age for all kids, which leaves parents with a tough question and no easy answer.

We'd like to hear at what age you think parents should allow their children to have cell phones.  Just visit the poll on our KELOLAND News Facebook page to cast your vote.

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