The following is excerpted from an online article posted by Stanford Medicine.
Parents fretting over when to get their children a cell phone can take heart: A rigorous new study from Stanford Medicine did not find a meaningful association between the age at which kids received their first phones and their well-being, as measured by grades, sleep habits, and depression symptoms.
The study, which appeared recently in Child Development, is unusual because it followed a group of more than 250 children for five years, during which most of them acquired their first cell phones. Instead of comparing phone-using kids with those who don’t have phones at a single point in time, the scientists tracked the participants’ well-being as they transitioned to phone ownership.
“We found that whether or not the children in the study had a mobile phone, and when they had their first mobile phone, did not seem to have meaningful links to their well-being and adjustment outcomes,” said lead author Xiaoran Sun, Ph.D., who was a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford Medicine and Stanford Data Science when the study was conducted. For parents wondering when to get their child a phone, she said, “There doesn’t seem to be a golden rule about waiting until eighth grade or a certain age.”
The average age at which children received their first phones was 11.6 years old, with phone acquisition climbing steeply between 10.7 and 12.5 years of age, a period during which half of the children acquired their first phones. According to the researchers, the results may suggest that each family timed the decision to what they thought was best for their child.
“One possible explanation for these results is that parents are doing a good job matching their decisions to give their kids phones to their child’s and family’s needs,” Robinson said. “These results should be seen as empowering parents to do what they think is right for their family.”
Source: Stanford Medicine