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When should kids be allowed to have a phone?

Good Question: When should kids get a phone?
Good Question: When should kids get a phone? 02:36

MINNEAPOLS – If you have a child between 6 and 12, there's a good chance they've asked you for a cellphone. In fact, surveys show the average age for a first one in the U.S. is around 10 years old.

So, when should a child get their first cellphone? Good Question.

"I try to avoid recommending one specific age," said Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children's Center and Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communication and Media. "Instead, we recommend that parents who know their children best and know their children's level of responsibility and maturity look at why the child needs a cellphone."

According to Common Sense Media, 53% of children have a cellphone by the age of 11 and 20% of 8-year-olds have a phone.

When WCCO asked parents their opinions, the answers ranged from "11 or 12" to "when they're mature enough for social media" to not before middle school. On the CBS News Minnesota Morning Update, others weighed in with answers like when the kids can "pay for it themselves" or when they "no longer need a sitter to watch them."

You need to understand why the cellphone is needed in the first place. For example, Ameenuddin said parents sometimes want one for safety reasons.

"I think some children are much more able to handle the responsibilities of being cellphone users at a variety of ages – younger and older than 13," she says.

One quick search online will bring up many questionnaires on this topic. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics and AT&T teamed up to develop its own list of ten questions for parents to ask themselves and their children.

The questions begin with Who is asking for the phone – parent or child? The ask about safety, how well a child keeps track of their stuff or whether they follow rules on other social media.

"Will your child be able to put it away during school," said Ameenuddin. "Do they have the impulse control to put it away at nighttime?"

Some parents brought up the ideas of tracking and privacy. One mother of a 10-year-old said, "She has the right to privacy and when are we willing to give her that right completely."

Experts suggest implementing screen-free times or places in your house. Ameenuddin says parents could start younger children with a cellphone before graduating to one with more features.

"I think the most important thing to remember is that parents know your child best," she said. "They are really going to be the best judges on when a child is able to be a cellphone user."

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