How young is too young for a cell phone? A YouthBeat survey from the first six months of 2012 found that 13% of children ages 6 to 10 already own one. But 12 is the most common age for first-phonedom; that's when 18% of kids get theirs. "Middle school is the clear-cut time in my mind," says Gwenn O'Keeffe, a pediatrician who last year co-wrote an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report on children and social media. "There's a huge developmental leap between fourth and eighth grades." When will your child be ready? Here are some factors for parents to consider:
Too much texting can dull kids' social sense, says Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and a co-author of iBrain. "Our brains evolved to communicate face to face," he says. "A lot of this is lost with texting."
Studies on the effects of the nonionizing radiation emitted by cell phones have been inconclusive. Still, the AAP asked the Federal Communications Commission in July to reassess the standards for children out of concern about the impact of radiation on their developing brains. In the meantime, many pediatricians advise limiting talk time. Kids "are not little adults and are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cell-phone radiation," AAP president Robert Block wrote.
THE VISION THING.
Pediatric ophthalmologist James Ruben says he's seen no uptick in vision problems related to cell-phone use. Gazing at a screen for hours on end may be correlated with nearsightedness, but that's true for reading books as well.