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3 On Your Side: At What Age Should Children Have Their Own Cell Phones?

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's back to school time and chances are there's more than just books and lunch stuffed into your child's knapsack.  As 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan finds, there's probably a cell phone in there too.

It's a question that many parents wrestle with:  At what age should children have their own cell phones?

The reality is that most kids have cell phones well before high school.

"We found that nearly 60 percent of parents said it was that 10-11 age range was where the kids got their first cell phone," said John Breyault with the National Consumers League.

The National Consumers League did that survey of over 800 parents in 2012.  Since then, the prevalence of cell phones among teens and preteens has nearly doubled. And the average age has gotten even younger. Some carriers are marketing to kids as young as five.

"It's not uncommon to see, really, two and three year olds becoming quite fluent with using a touch tablet or a touch device. And so by the time they turn 6, 7, 8, they're very comfortable with the mobile devices," said Shawn Dubravac with the Consumer Electronics Association.

But how young is too young? Consumer experts say that depends on a child's maturity and lifestyle.

"This is an age group where they are doing a lot of activities outside the home, things like sports practices, after-school activities, going over to friends' houses. And so most parents we surveyed said they were getting the phone so the kid could stay in touch with them," said Breyault.

But handing over a phone to a child doesn't come without issues.  Experts advise parents to talk with children about staying within data limits, avoiding inappropriate content, and steering clear of privacy risks and cyber-bullying.



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