At what age is it better to give a child a smartphone?

First Coast News asked mental health experts this question and talked to children about their use of social media.

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. Every parent asks the question: at what age is it best to give a child a smartphone?

First Coast News asked mental health experts this question and talked to children about their use of social media.

The children First Coast News spoke to began using smartphones at a range of ages, from five to 14. Several older children told First Coast News that they are glad they didn’t have smartphones until at least graduating from elementary school, but they say kids can now be excluded from social situations if all their friends have smartphones. .

“If you don’t have any social networks, you are deprived of many things,” said 16-year-old Carter Magnano, who started using a smartphone when he was 10 years old. “Then I thought it was a good age, but now I probably should have waited a couple of years.”

Another 16-year-old boy, who got a smartphone at age 9, says he interacted with many strangers online and was exposed to content that he felt did not match his level of maturity at the time. A teenage girl who got a phone at 14 says her mother didn’t want social media to affect her body image, which she thought might happen. However, she thinks 14 is too old because her friends will show her apps she won’t use.

First Coast News also spoke to some of the younger children, including Alejandro Montano.

“Some of the negatives were that I was distracted by YouTube videos or just not paying attention to what I needed,” said Alejandro, who started using a smartphone at the age of eight.

First Coast News asked two brothers if they consider themselves addicted to their phones. The younger brother, aged 11, said yes.

“I can’t do anything without it,” said Caden Vincent, who got a smartphone at the age of five.

Terry Andrews, vice president of behavioral health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, says risks need to be weighed when evaluating when to give a child a smartphone.

“We’re seeing that kids may actually be more depressed by spending most of their time on social media,” Andrews said. “Unplugging, we’re missing out on those opportunities to connect with our peers, connect with adults, have those important conversations, and the opportunity to practice engagement in relationships.”

Andrews says, and research shows that the way our brains respond to social media is similar to how addictions form, and children are particularly susceptible. The American Psychological Association’s Chief Scientist says most teens have at least one symptom of clinical social media addiction.

“When you scroll, it’s very similar to gambling where there is intermittent reinforcement,” said Andrews. “So you get to one and it might not be interesting, and so you switch to another and it might be attractive. It’s intermittent reinforcement, as we say, and it’s one of the most important themes for addiction.”

Andrews says parents should keep track of screen time and what apps their kids are using. First Coast News asked her at what age a child should be given a smartphone.

“I would probably say that high school is what the study points to, maybe even high school,” she said. . But at the same time, the important conversations about when to use social media, when to opt out, are all important topics to cover.”

Andrews suggests downloading the On the Sleeves’ “social media agreement” with Wolfson Children’s Hospital, which you can find here. It includes the following prompts: “We want to follow and be inspired by people/organizations including…” and “We have discussed and agreed that the following apps are right for me.”

More tips for safe smartphone and social media use for your child can be found here.

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