Should a Seven-Year-Old Have a Cell Phone?


Cell phones have become a huge part of our society, exponentially so in the past few years, and now every kid wants one.

Now more than ever, parents have to make a firm decision on how young is too young when it comes to giving their kids cell phones of their own.

Should a seven year old have a cell phone? Well, really, it’s up to the parent to decide if their seven year old child should have a cell phone or not. However, at the age of seven, kids are beginning to participate in activities away from the home, and it might be wise to give them a method with which they can communicate, like a cell phone.

Even though it sound wise to provide a seven year old with a cell phone, some parents might be wary. What are the costs and benefits to owning a cell phone, especially at that young?

And if you do decide to give your seven-year-old a cell phone, how can you make sure that they are using is safely and responsibly? In the rest of this article, I’m going to go over each of those topics. So read on!

The Ubiquitous Cell Phone 

Cell phones are becoming more and more present as the years pass. With every new technological advance, it seems like that presence goes up ten fold or more.

The number of cell phone uses has increased by 270 million over just the last two years, and it is predicted to jump another 210 million by 2020.

The more prevalent cell phones get, the more kids are going to ask about them, and the more they are going to inevitably want them.

One thing Generation X seems determined not to do is to understand that move towards cell phones is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cell phones have created a life of convenience and easily accessible information. Cell phones have created a life of convenience and easily accessible information.

The Pros of Giving Your Seven-Year-Old a Child’s Cell Phone

Seven-year-old children are entering the stage of life where they begin to want to do things on their own. Their frontal lobe, the one responsible for decision making, goes through a huge growth spurt during this time.

Seven-year-olds want to figure things out by themselves and have their own adventures.

This also means that seven-year-olds are beginning to become more responsible. They start attributing value to their possessions and keeping track of things themselves.

They can understand the use of certain objects and tools and can be taught about the purpose of their cell phone. Mentally, they might just be ready for owning a cell phone.

Entering second and third grade means that seven-year-olds are now going to be making new friends and participating in school activities. They are going to have to start doing things without the constant supervision of their parents.

This can be a little stressful for parents, and a cell phone might just help alleviate that stress since it give the kids a way to keep in communication with their parents. 

Moms have used cell phones to talk to their kids as their kids walk home from school, the bus stop, the playground, or a friend’s house. This enables the mom to be sure that their kid is safe while allowing the kid to gain some experience in walking home by themselves.

It eases and broadens the minds of both parties.

This use of cell phones can help both the mother and the child in stepping out of their comfort zone and trying new experiences. It’s no secret that moms can be a little overprotective of their children, especially if it is their first child.

They shouldn’t be blamed for that, but the fact still stands that many mothers are loath to let their child out of their sight.

If you add a cell phone into that mix, it can help the mother let her kid experiences things on their own while still having the safety net that allows her to contact her kid if she gets worried.

It can also help the kids experience new things and learn to do things on their own. It can also ease their fears of doing things like walking home alone if they know they can call their mother.

Cell phones also allow continued communication when face to face communication is unavailable, for whatever reason. Often times, things as simple as “Please be home by five tonight” can be sent as a text, allowing the parent to communicate with the child.

And then, if the child isn’t actually home by five, the parent also has a way to get ahold of their kid to figure out what exactly is going on.

Speaking of communication, cell phones are vital in emergency situations. Actually, child abductions started a rapid decline around 2004, which is right around the time that cell phones first started becoming prevalent.

I know that correlation does not equal causation, but take that information as you will.

Cell phones can be convenient, useful, and helpful when it comes to communication, stepping out of our comfort zone, and emergency situations.

The Cons of Giving Your Seven-Year-Old Child a Cell Phone

Just because the world is changing doesn’t mean that we have to. I have had so many talks from my parents about not giving in to peer pressure (and not giving it either).

Life is more than just keeping up with the Jones’. Even if every seven-year-old kid on the block has a cell phone, that doesn’t mean that your kid needs one.

Cell phones can also be a major distractor. This is less of an argument against giving seven year olds cell phones and more of an argument against cell phones in general. Studies and surveys show that people spend an average of 2 hours, 30 minutes a day on their devices.

And that’s not even including TV and video game time. There is a lot of stuff you can do outside of your screen (I know that’s rich coming from me, who literally earns my living by spending hours on a screen).

If your child is allowed to have their cell phone when they go to bed, they probably will not be going to bed. I have succumbed to many hours of late night Pinterest surfing, and I always regret it the next morning.

Enough sleep is important, especially at a young age, and introducing a cell phone might prevent that from happening.

Cell phones are often so much more than just a way to communicate with other people. There are apps, social media, and access to the internet to worry about.

It makes sense to not want to expose all of that to a seven-year-old who can’t even type yet. 

With all of this access, there is always the looming threat of cyber-bullying to worry about. I know during middle school there was a huge push against cyber-bullying, and I came to realize that it isn’t a rare occurrence.

In fact, 21% of kids are cyber bullied.

The scary thing about cyber-bullying is that it is a lot quieter than “old fashioned” bullying. There’s only a soft ding, and then silence. Unless your kid wants to talk to you, you might never know that it is going on.

Cyber-bullying can happen through text, email, social media, or even instant messaging.

Cyber-bullying is persistent because the bullies have 24-hour access to your child through their phone. There are laws against it, but really, you’re going to have to be the one to make sure that your kid is safe and is doing alright.

Health Concerns

Every time you introduce something new into your life or the life of your children, it is wise to assess the effects this new thing will have on you and your child’s health. And cell phones are no exception.

Radiation

There has always been this subtle buzz about the radiation (radio waves) that cell phones emit. Stuff like “If you put your phone in your bra, you’ll get breast cancer,” or “If you hold your phone up to your ear for too long, you’ll get skin cancer.”

By and large, these accusations are just as unfounded as the accusations that vaccines cause autism.

An international study done in 2011 came to the conclusion that there is no correlation between cell phone usage and brain tumors. Even in teenagers and adolescents, whose brains are still growing.

There are those who think that you would be able to find a link if you just did a long-term experiment or study. And yes, I suppose given more time, you could eventually compile enough cases of heavy cell phone users who developed brain tumors.

But remember that whole “correlation does not equal causation” thing?

Loss of Sleep

It’s become almost common knowledge that blue light disrupts sleeping patterns more than any other light. Blue light is the light that most screens (like the screen of a phone) emit.

Your body’s natural sleeping pattern is called a circadian rhythm. Your body notices when it gets dark outside and starts producing melatonin to make you sleepy. When it get light again, your body produces cortisol to wake you up.

Artificial light messes up that system. With artificial light, your retinas detect light all the time, and your body thinks that it should still be awake. That’s why it’s so hard to sleep when the light is on. 

Blue light specifically is infamous for keeping you up at night. Blue light boots attention, reaction time, and mood. It suppresses delta brain waves that are responsible for making you tired and boosts alpha brain waves that are responsible for keeping you awake.

Because of the long wavelength of blue lights, it is believed that your body is more sensitive to it.

The best thing to do if you want to improve your sleep is to get rid of artificial light altogether. Obviously, that’s not really reasonable in today’s modern world.

However, you can limit your cell phone usage, and the cell phone usage of your children, especially close to bedtime. Take an hour before bed to wind down and spend some time off of the cell phone.

Cyber-Bullying

I already mentioned cyber-bullying as a con to getting your seven-year-old a cell phone. But the problems with cyber-bullying go much deeper than just exposure when you’re young.

Cyber-bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, apathy, and suicidal thoughts. It’s hard enough to deal with those sorts of emotions when your brain is fully developed, but imagine a seven year old trying to process feelings like that.

At seven years old, children are just starting to develop their own emotions, ideas, and though processes.

They start to want to do things by themselves, and their brains have to constantly switch between the fantasy world they know and the real world they are growing to know.

This is stressful, and new emotions are hard to control. So if seven-year-olds are exposed to complex emotions like depression or suicidal thoughts, they are going to have an even harder time dealing with them.

Stress Injuries

“BlackBerry Thumb” has become a more common affliction in modern times as cell phones are being used more often. “BlackBerry Thumb” is the soreness of your thumbs caused by texting too much.

“BlackBerry Thumb” is at its core a stress injury. You can get a stress injury from repeated actions with no rest. A lot of dedicated athletes get stress injuries if they don’t take time to recover between intense workouts.

You can get it from repeating anything, like hammering, running, carrying heavy trays as a waiter, or even texting.

You can also get stress injuries on your neck. This is common among people who work on computers all day, students who spend all day bending of books to study, or people who text constantly.

The symptoms include soreness, numbness, and discomfort.

Cell Phones and Traffic

This concern doesn’t really apply to seven-year-olds, but cell phones end up causing a small host of problems.

One-half of teenagers ages 16-17 admit to talking on the phone while driving and 28% of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers on their phones. Yes, using cell phones while driving is dangerous even if you are using a hands-free device.

“Lots of kids think they can multi-task, but multi-tasking isn’t really multi-tasking. It’s just shifting attention. So kids think they can text and pay attention to the road, but in reality, they can’t. That’s dangerous.”

Lori Evans, MD, director of training in psychology at the NYU Child Study Center

In addition to cell phones being dangerous inside cars, cell phones can also pose dangers outside of cars. Pedestrians crossing streets while distracted by their cell phones increases the likelihood of getting hit by a car by 43%.

Allergies

Most cell phones contain nickel, and a lot of people actually have allergies to nickel. Most of the time, the nickel in cell phones are covered by the plastic outer covering, but when that covering becomes chipped, or in the spaces around buttons or logos, the nickel can show through.

Nickle is the leading cause in contact dermatitis because it is used in items like belt buckles, watches, jewelry, and cell phone. Contact dermatitis leads to redness, rashes, and in rare cases, blisters.

Loud Music

Many would argue that music is almost an essential part of life. The problem is, we have a nasty habit of listening to it too loudly, and we can permanently damage our hearing that way.

Cell phones aren’t the only culprits when it comes to loud music. We have computers and stereos that contribute as well. However, with cell phones and headphones, we can blast music directly into our ear canals.

About 12.5% of children ages 6-19 have permanent damage to their hearing due to exposure to loud music. The loudest safe decibel level is around 85. Stereo headphones reach 100 dB.

Limits

If you are set on getting your child a cell phone, here are some limits that you might want to set in order to ensure that the cell phone is being used correctly and your child is safe.

Get a Basic Phone

There are options besides smartphones. Flip phones still exist. I know, I was surprised too. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t seen somebody walking to class talking on one just this morning.

If you get a phone without access to the internet, apps, or social media, then you won’t have to worry about exposing your child to any of that.

Leave it at the Door

You can have your child leave their cell phone with you when they go to bed. That way you make sure that they are actually sleeping when it comes time to.

You could also shut down the internet at night or put a parental lock on the phone to block certain apps after a certain time.

Parental Checks

Even though I’m sure most kids would claim that their phone is private property, you are still the parent, and you have your kid’s best interest in mind (hopefully).

You can institute nightly checks of their phone if you want to make sure that they are not getting cyber-bullied or that they are not using their phone in a way contrary to the rules you have put in place.

If you don’t want to be the benevolent dictator, you can just make it clear to your kid that if you have concerns, you have full access.

You could also put a parental lock on the phone to completely block certain abilities on the phone if you want.

Set the Example

The most important thing to do is follow all of the rules yourself. You are your child’s role model, even if they deny it. If you spend hours on your phone, your children will too.

Put down your phone when you drive, don’t text at the dinner table, limit your phone time, and get sleep. As well as setting the rules for your child, I think that you’ll find that you sleep better, feel less stressed, and get more done.

Cell Phone Options

Here are a few cell phone options you might want to look at if you want to get your seven-year-old a cell phone.

  • LG GizmoPal 2– This can be worn around the wrist, so it can’t be lost as easily. It is GPS equipped and four telephone numbers can be programmed into it, so random people can’t call your child.
  • Nokia 3310 3G– Nokia is popular for being durable. It has calling, texting, and camera abilities, but no internet access. It also has a long battery life and is pretty cheap.
  • Blu Tank Xtreme 2.4– This one is water resistant and durable. It has music storage and a camera. It can call and text, but there is no internet access.

Alternatives to Cell Phones

If you don’t want to give your seven-year-old a cell phone, but still want to be able to communicate with them, here are a few options.

  • Jiobit– This is a small device that you can slip into a backpack or clip onto a shoelace. It connects with your phone and you can track your child’s movements in real time. You can also set up alerts that tell you if your child has left a certain “safe zone” that you create.
  • The Relay– There is just one button to push on this device that calls home. It is enabled with GPS so you can find your child, and it is sturdy and water resistant, so it can survive getting dropped in the mud at the playground. There are no internet or app capabilities.

Related Questions

How much screen time should a seven-year-old have? Kids under six should be limited to one hour of screen time, while infants (0-18 months) should not be exposed to digital media.

Once kids hit the age of seven, it’s not as simple as stating a blanket statement on screen time, but you should try and keep it less than two hours a day.

When do most kids get their first cell phone? In America, about 53% of children have their first phone by the time they turn seven years old. This is double the statistic from 2004.

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