How young is too young for children to have a smartphone?

Not too long ago, a parent’s high-anxiety decision was figuring out when to hand over the car keys to their teenager.

In this day and age, the debate has become knowing when is the proper time to connect a child to the world with a smartphone.

So, how young is too young to buy a child a smartphone?

It happened at a young age for Annmarie Novak’s 11-year-old and 9-year-old daughters.

Novak handed her daughters a smartphone when they were in the third grade, presenting them with a huge responsibility.

“That was when they started going places and hanging out with their buddies without mom and I started to let go a little bit and said, ‘OK, you can go with her,'” Novak said.

More: Apple urged to help curb kids’ smartphone addiction

Rhonda Chapman’s 4-year-old son first asked her for a smartphone last year — in kindergarten.

“We basically told him middle school,” Chapman said. “And he said it was because someone in his class had a cell phone. I couldn’t even believe it. I mean, it just threw me.”

According to Influence Central, a company that tracks consumers, the average American child receives their first smartphone at 10 years old, which is roughly fourth grade.

“If I believe my child was mature enough in fifth grade and we had had the need and means for it then he will get a phone,” mother Sarona Wyant said.

There are some positive aspects of a child having a smartphone at a young age. It’s easier for kids to stay connected, there are great learning apps and it can be a good safety precaution.

But Wyant’s biggest concern is her 10-year-old son becoming addicted to a smartphone.

“The social interaction of them not being around other children has definitely deteriorated because they have their face in front of a phone of some kind,” Wyant said.

Smartphone addiction in younger ages is real and there can be visible side effects, Lee Health licensed psychologist Siddika Mulchan said.

“A lot of social difficulties that can lead to things like depression and anxiety as well in children and teens related to smartphone usage,” Mulchan said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend for parents to limit their child’s screen time.

Parents who worry smartphones can put their child even closer to online bullies, predators and adult websites can download new apps that allow them to watch their kids smartphone usage, right down to their exact location.

“Wherever they are you can get directions to wherever they are, how long they have been there,” Novak said.

Novak’s daughters know their mother has unlimited access to their smartphone.

“I know who you are talking to, I know who you are looking at, and I know where you are going and they go, ‘Yes mom,'” Novak said.

Sprint offers a website where your children can take a test to see if they are ready for a smartphone. To visit the website, click here. 

Verizon offers FamilyBase, an app to help parents set smarter boundaries, monitor and manage their child’s smartphone use. With FamilyBase, parents can:

  • Set restrictions so their children are off the phone during school, family time, and late night.
  • Block unwanted contacts or websites and apps that are too adult.
  • Establish harmony between phone or tablet time and family time to create a positive experience for their children.
  • Parents can also see who their kids are messaging and how much.

The Family Online Safety Institute has plenty of general advice on digital parenting including a contract for parents to set up ground rules with their children for safer and more responsible use of technology. To visit their website, click here.

T-Mobile recommends these apps for parents:

Reporter:Corey Lazar
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