The dangers of a cell phone: when is it safe to give your child a cell phone?

Some advice on when and how to ease your child into owning a cell phone and the dangers that can come with it.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 4:47 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Technology plays a key role in the way we communicate, shop, travel, and even see each other.

While technology is crucial, having access to everything a cell phone can bring while too young can be detrimental to a child’s physical and mental development.

“I would say have your rules ready before you take that step,” says Hollie Strand, Forensic Examiner at Pennington County sheriff’s office, she emphasizes that keeping your child safe by setting up rules beforehand is key in giving them a phone.

While there are plenty of reasons to give your child a phone at a young age- safety, communication, entertainment- it is beneficial to know how the device can affect your child in the long run.

With access to the many things the internet can bring, putting child safety precautions in place is recommended while your child has a phone. You never know what your child can see while they are using a cell phone but being aware of the possibilities may be crucial.

“Research is showing this correlation to children having that access and their overall mental health. This can show up as mental health issues like increased distraction or increased anxiety or depression. Kids that have unlimited access to phones can show an increased level of being withdrawn or anxious,” says Tifanie Petro, advocacy and prevention program director at the Children’s Home Child Advocacy Center.

Before giving your child a phone, talk to them about phone safety. What your child sees on their phone can impact how they view the world for the rest of their lives.

Children are more susceptible to being developmentally impacted by seeing things like porn, internet crime, or even some chat rooms- places where no one knows your age, and it is easy to get away with taking advantage of a child.

“Also understanding that if there is harm that is occurring through the cell phone device or through a social media app- like sexting or sextortion or cyberbullying- that your child is going to display those behaviors. Their behavior is really going to give us a picture if there is something negative going on,” Petro continues.

A cellphone may allow your child to fit in more with their peers and have constant access to friends and loved ones, benefits that keep your child safe and happy.

While you cannot control what other kids show your child on their own devices, you can take steps to make your child’s cell phone use a little safer, and in the long run, allow their brains to develop in a healthier way. “Parents need to understand that with that technology, comes greater responsibility on their child but also on them,” Strand concludes.

Experts say having a conversation with your child about the boundaries and benefits of a cellphone can go a long way.