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New book teaches kids how to use smartphones in a healthy, safe way

Author shares how kids can make safe, healthy choices with their smartphones
Author shares how kids can make safe, healthy choices with their smartphones 03:21

CHICAGO (CBS) – Those with children who have cell phones know how attached they are to the device. It's like another arm.

We understand the advantages: easy access to loved ones and information.

But children have to learn to be careful on their cell phones.

A new book, written for boys and girls, teaches them how to be healthy and considerate on smart phones. The author told CBS 2's Jim Williams that parents can read it too.

Parents of children with cell phones take comfort knowing they can reach their kids at any time, or their kids can reach them.

But there are perils: frayed attention spans, cyberbullying, predators targeting children.

"It's really important to give kids the education they need to make good choices for themselves when they're not with their parents," said Catherine Pearlman.

That's what led Pearlman, a clinical social worker with a doctorate and family coach, to write a book for kids called "First Phone," which offers lessons on healthy phone usage and a guide to keep them safe.

Williams could not help but think of his own daughter. She's now an adult, but was once a teenager with a phone.

Supervising her time on that device was a big challenge.

"She'd have a phone, she closed the door to her bedroom or she go into a backyard or she'd be with friends," Williams said.

Pearlman suggests that parents set limits.

"No phones in the bedrooms, that's a house rule, and it doesn't matter how old you are, or we have no hones at mealtimes, whatever it may be," she said. "When grandma's visiting, not a good time to be on your cell phone. In the movie theater, not a great time, so things like that they have to learn."

Williams asked," Catherine, is there an ideal age for a child to get their first phone?"

"I actually do think 11, 12 years old is a great age," she said. "Because they're old enough where they can learn how to use it properly, a little at a time, but they're not too old where they're like, 'No I don't want to talk to my parents about this. I don't want them in my social media.'"

Pearlman has advice on making sure children are well-mannered on the phone, how to deal with peer pressure and cyberbullying.

"Encouraging kids to take a break, a social break, you know, when we were kids, we would go home after school, we had a break," she said. "It was built in. But now we have to kind of help kids say 'OK, I actually need to turn off my social life for a little bit, so I can kind of regroup, do what I need to do, develop my hobbies, see people in real life.'"

Then there are the scams.

Just this year, the FBI warned parents of a crime called "sextortion," when adults pose as peers and encourage kids to send intimate photos, them demanding money to keep them private.

"Well, I tell them that you know these scammers and predators are very, very good at their job. Even adults who are savvy are falling prey to some of these things," Pearlman said. "So to realize that if you don't know a person in real life, they are not your friend, no matter how many years you've communicated with them on whatever game or social media. Trust that gut feeling that maybe something is off and hold on a second and maybe we don't share that information."

"First Phone" is available today and includes tips on how to set up digital habits even before children get their first phone.

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