PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When should a child get their first cellphone?
With the new school year approaching, many parents are exploring their options. But popular smartphone models can be pricey and they can also open kids to predators.
Surveys show most kids get their first cellphones at 11 or 12.
Child psychologist Shannon Odell told KOIN 6 News, while cellphones connect children to their families and the world, parents should closely monitor their use.
“Even before you give your child a device, if possible, set up a contract for how it’s going to be used,” Odell suggested.
Odell said putting digital devices in the hands of young children can lead to impaired social development and disrupted sleep patterns, which can affect learning.
But she said parents should be even more concerned about the threat of predators who connect with kids through smartphones. Earlier this year, 13-year-old Nicole Lovell was lured to her death by 2 Virginia Tech students through a social media app.
“Kids who are 11 don’t need Snapchat, they don’t need Instagram,” she said.
Cellphone providers offer a number of services that allow parents to monitor their kids’ activity. Portland Verizon store general manager Jason Taylor said the wireless provider can help parents can limit the times kids’ cellphones connect to the Internet.
Parents can restrict who their kids can call and who can call them. They can also sign up to receive notifications anytime their children download new applications.
Taylor said there are also GPS tracking options for kids of all ages.
Cellphones can be pricey, but wireless companies have tailored family plans for as low as $20 a month, with the cost of the phone spread out over a couple of years.