Tweens, teens and cell phones

April 10, 2018
Tweens, teens and cell phones, Summerlin Hospital, Las Vegas, Nevada
Tal Minuskin

If you are the parent of a tween or teen, you have probably had a talk about cell phones at some point.

Tal A. Minuskin, MD, is a pediatrician on staff at Summerlin Hospital and the founder of Kiddies’ Pal Pediatrics in Las Vegas.

Q: What age is appropriate to give my child a cell phone?

Maturity levels and needs vary, so it is up to you as a parent to decide. We got our boys cell phones at 11 years old because we felt they were ready. Some parents feel secure knowing their child can reach them in an emergency while others worry about risks like cyberbullying and texting behind the wheel. Have a conversation about the responsibility a cell phone entails before you make a decision.

Q: How do I encourage safe use?

Talk with your child about risks of cell phone use and establish rules like only answering numbers they know, not sharing mean or inappropriate messages or pictures and not using the phone while driving. For example, our boys’ phones are set up so that they can’t download any apps unless they ask our permission, and we haven’t given them their passwords to access pictures, music and games, so they need us to access even that.

Q: Do cell phones affect tween / teen health?

Studies have found that cell phones can negatively affect tween and teen sleep, especially when it is in the bedroom at night. A sleep deficient adolescent may be at greater risk for physical, emotional and mental health problems*. It may be a good idea to create a cell phone curfew in the evening to help your child wind down before bed. We take our boys’ cell phones at bedtime. Before we did that, they were up all night playing games!

Q: Should I limit cell phone time?

Setting limits on cell phone use can help your tween or teen have a healthier relationship with their phone, and it can also prevent them from running up the bill. Maybe you work out a plan that they can use the phone after homework is done or give them an hour after dinner with it — find what works and adjust as needed. We’ve found that our boys don’t spend much time with their phones or technology in general because we encourage them to play outside and be active, read or do something constructive.

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