Smartphones for kids? What experts recommend

Posted May 13, 2019 6:32 a.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2019 9:17 a.m. EDT

More parents are starting to question the value of wireless devices for their younger children, and many experts say smartphones may not be all that smart without firm ground rules.

Jeremy and Jessica Cole preach priorities for their four children. Church involvement and school are important, and smartphones are not.

"When you live on a cell phone, you become somewhat unable to develop normal relationships," said Jeremy Cole.

Family psychologist Kristen Wynns agrees, saying if phones are introduced too early and without controls, there is greater risk for obesity and emotional issues.

"There's so many potential down falls with having a smartphone," Wynns said. "[Like] an impact on self esteem as you compare yourself to what your peers are posting, and then you feel bad about yourself."

In a new poll, 2,000 moms felt that 12-year-olds could handle the responsibility of a smartphone. The Coles gave their own 12-year-old daughter, Lucy, a phone, but it has limited functions.

Even if you take the smartphone leap later, Wynns recommends recharging the device outside of the child's bedroom at night. You can also make spot checks about what they and their friends text or post online and enforce daily usage limits.

"Those are very basic ground rules before they even hand over any kind of device," Wynns said.

The survey also found 78 percent of moms are the primary overseer when it comes to their child's "firsts," and 81 percent of moms control the media and technology their kids consume.

For now, the Coles said they just don't want the devices to interfere with a normal childhood. "[It's not the] type of thing that I grew up with -- where you played outside with your friends and you read a book," Jessica Coles said. "You didn't always have a screen in front of your face."