MIAMI (CBSMiami) — These days, who doesn’t have a cell phone or even a smart phone and that includes many kids who aren’t even in junior high yet.

We’re talking about “tweens”, children between 8 and 12. That’s the fastest area of growth for the cell phone business but when does a child really need a cell phone?

“Once they hit junior high, and they started doing things and going places and I needed to get a hold of them, that’s when we gave them their cell phones,” said mother Kristen Swanson.

Kristen Swanson is not unusual. The National Consumers League found nearly 6 out of 10 parents of “tweens” have given their children cells.

The top reasons:

  • Safety
  • Tracking the child’s after-school activities
  • The child asked for one

“It really depends on what the parent’s purpose is for allowing a child to have a cell phone,” explained neuropsychologist Dr. Pete Stavinoha who believes the ‘tween’ cell phone crash could hurt many.

“As a psychologist, I’m mostly concerned that it’s not simply a substitute for those face-to-face social skills that are really going to be invaluable as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.”

Dr. Stavinoha believes parents should make this decision very carefully.

“I think parents really need to give this more thought than simply giving in to what their child simply wants. Consider the positive benefits, and weighing those against the potential risks.”

When trying to decide whether to give your child a cell phone, the National Consumers League suggests you ask these questions:

  • Does your child really need one?
  • Will it be used to stay in touch with parents, friends or for emergency use only?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • And most importantly; are they mature enough?

“Parents should be monitoring how that child is developing. If things aren’t going the right way that’s when the child is showing they’re not capable,” explained Dr. Stavinoha.

The Swansons spend around $250 a month to keep their family connected. Mom and Dad pay for the basics but each child pays for the extras like apps or internet access.

Kristen Swanson thinks she’s made the right call for her family.

“It really gives me peace of mind knowing that when she comes home after school, she has a way to contact me,” said Kristen.



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