NJ child psychologist warns parents about giving kids phones too soon
Morristown child psychologist Steven Tobias cautions parents about giving a child a phone too early, saying it can disrupt family communication and the kid's ability to concentrate on what's important.
"You really have to decide what your values are as a family, and where the cell phone fits in with those values," said Tobias, of the Center for Child and Family Development.
He takes a dim view of starting the process too early.
"Whenever the parent wants their child to stop making eye contact with them and not talk to them anymore, that is when they should get the kid a cell phone, because that is often what happens," he said. "The kid's face is in the phone all of the time, you go out to dinner, you are at the dinner table, and they are using the phone."
"I have been in practice for awhile now, and I can tell you that right now, about 50 percent of the conflicts within the family has to do with technology, cell phones, iPads, things like that."
Tobias concedes that some children in the 8 to 10 age range may need a phone for safety and to communicate with parents. He says by high school, hopefully kids have a sense of responsibility and often a need for the phone.
"Middle school? It is kind of a questionable time for it, but I really think that it would have to be unique circumstances to give a kid in elementary school a cell phone."
Tobias advises parents to measure a child's cell phone readiness by their maturity, not their age. He says it really comes down to three factors:
1 — You have to think about the family's values
Is the cell phone interfering with communication? What is the kid doing with the cell phone in terms of their social interaction or playing games? So you really have to decide what your values are as a family, and where the cell phone fits in with those values.
2 — Consider the responsibility of the child
For some kids, it is not a matter of age, it is really a matter of degree of responsibility.
"I know some 18-year-olds who I do not think can handle the responsibility of a cell phone and I have certainly seen some 8 and 10-year-olds who are able to follow the rules and use the phone appropriately."
3 — Does the kid need the phone?
"If they are using it just for entertainment purposes, I do not think that I would do that. I really think that that is not in the kid's best interest. I do not think that that is a good way for kids to play."
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5
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