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Appropriate Age for Cell Phones

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I got a phone call the other day from a patient’s mother who was concerned about the internet and a website that her daughter had gone to, looking up information on eating disorders. Her daughter is in the sixth grade, and she was concerned about her interest in anorexia. But while talking to the mother she mentioned that the daughter had researched this subject from her iPhone, not the family computer!

I was concerned about her daughter’s interest in unhealthy eating habits, but also concerned that a 6th grader had an iPhone and free access to all sorts of inappropriate internet information, with no real adult supervision. Our discussion turned to what is an appropriate phone for a sixth grader to have?

I am not sure that elementary students need a phone at all. What happened to the days of going to the school office to use the phone to call home?  What about giving your child a phone that is programmed to call home, mom and dad at the office and that’s about it?  Not only do kids have unlimited internet access with many of their smartphones, they also have unlimited text and are “texting” friends while in school, late at night and even while driving?

I think getting a phone is a privilege and that the longer you wait to give your child a phone, the fewer issues you have to deal with about cell phone use at a young age. Maybe I am out of touch, but I even see six or seven-year-olds with phones. As the kids say, “go figure”?

The phone call ended with the decision to replace the iPhone with another phone, to discuss what provoked her daughter’s interest in eating disorders and to make sure that the family computer was in an area where the was adult supervision. I am sure her daughter is looking for a new pediatrician.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat tomorrow.

Send your comment or question to Dr. Sue.

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