What the Tech? Kids and smartphones - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

What the Tech? Kids and smartphones

Posted: Updated:
Photo courtesy of "Wait Until 8th." Photo courtesy of "Wait Until 8th."

It's a frequently asked, by fairly recent question: what's the best age to give a kid a smartphone?

Children as young as 7 and 8 have smartphones now despite parents' groups and psychologists warning that's too early.

The effects of constantly being attached to a device and connected to social media and who knows what else, often leads to arguments, drama and growing cases of depression among children and teenagers.

I gathered three parents around a library table inside an elementary school to discuss when they decided to give their kids a smartphone and any change they've noticed.

Holly Parks, a mom of kids 11 and 13 years old held off giving her oldest a phone until last Christmas.

"All their friends have them," she said.

As for how many elementary students she sees with the devices: "I would say a handful were starting to get them in the 3rd grade and when I moved to fourth I would say half the class."

Mark Days, a middle-school teacher and father of an 11 and 5-year-old children told me he relented on giving his 11-year-old son a smartphone when he was 10, primarily to stay in touch.

"With the iPhone you have the tracker so I know where he is at all times when he's not in my presence," he said but acknowledged he has a strict rule: "absolutely no social media. He's not old enough for that."

Kendal Cathey is the lone holdout among the parents. She has two children, both asking for a smartphone. She still says no.

"As an adult, I see how it affects adults on Facebook and social media. It's negative," she said. "So I did not want to put that on my 10 year old daughter who's dealing with other things."

All three parents spoke of the negative effects on children who are always connected to tech.

They see kids staring at a smartphone screen instead of playing with their friends or paying attention to anything that's not on the phone.

Park said she's seen the nasty part of what smartphones bring with them: cyber-bullying of a 3rd grader who was not invited to a birthday party.

"They facetimed one of the students that was in my class who wasn't invited to show her how much fun they were having at the party," she said. "The little girl was really devastated."

Days told me he's witnessed middle-schoolers sharing porn videos with each other they've downloaded to their phones.

Cathey said she's seen disturbing images pop up on her iPad even when her daughters were doing something as innocent as watching cat videos. One video linked to another which linked to another site.

"It was talking about the 25 funniest things kids bring to school, and the front picture was a (sex toy). It went from cat videos to that in 3 clicks," she said.

With all the disturbing videos and images and cyber-bullying found online many parents do wonder when it's safe to give their kids a smartphone.

Opinions vary from "never" to "whenever."

A national movement is underway to encourage parents to wait until kids are in the 8th grade before giving them a smartphone.

"Wait Until 8th" aims to gather pledges from parents in every school classroom to wait.

Our parents think it's a great idea.

"There's just so much out there, you don't know what your kid has on their phone," said Days.

"They're not old enough emotionally, mentally or physically to handle a lot of the things they run across," explains Park.

It's interesting that some of the biggest tech leaders in the world waited until their children were of a certain age before getting a smartphone or mobile device.

Apple founder and former CEO, the late Steve Jobs famously did not let his children use the iPad he developed until they were 14 and Microsoft's Bill Gates did not allow his children to have smartphones until they were 14.

Parents' Groups, psychologists and organizers of "Wait Until 8th" agree.

Parents can take the pledge and download resources to encourage other parents in their schools to do the same.



Powered by Frankly