Too Young for Phones or Facebook?

By Megan Trent

February 2, 2012 Updated Feb 2, 2012 at 3:15 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - How young is too young for a cell phone? Does your answer change for a Facebook account? Find out in this special report on age, technology, and social media.

What children may consider to be age appropriate often times differs from what parents think is the right time for that first cell phone or social media account.

Doug and Lisa Hicks of Fort Wayne have two girls. Heidi is 13-years-old, and Kelsey is now 10-years-old. Lisa says, "I think about second grade, Heidi started coming to me and talking to me about wanting a cell phone. At that time, I felt like second grade is a little too young. There's not really a need for that. I thought the maturity level wasn't there yet."

Heidi was in the sixth grade before she finally convinced her parents to change the rules.

"When she started getting old enough to go and hang out with her friends a little more, you know if she wanted to go to the movies, then I wouldn't have to give her my cell phone. I had something I could always get ahold of her with," add Lisa.

Eventually, both girls saved up enough money to buy their own iPod touches. Kelsey says, "I saw my mom and dad having a cell phone and older people having a cell phone and I thought, why can't I have a cell phone?"

"Those sort of things that they want, but it also teaches you a lesson - I have to save money, I have to work hard for these things, and I have to take care of it, because if I don't then I have to spend another $200 to get another one," Lisa explains.

Even for kids too young to have their own cell phones, sometimes parents will let the kids use their phones to keep them entertained while the parents are busy doing other things (shopping, making dinner, etc.) New educational and kid focused applications for smart phones are coming out every day.

The debate, however, does not stop at cell phones. Using social media can cause a big debate as well.

"Facebook is kind of addicting. It's just one word - drama!" says Heidi with a smile.

Lisa says she monitors both of her daughter's Facebook accounts. "It's okay that they have it. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't let the 10 year old have the Facebook, because there can be a lot of bullying on that."

Kelsey says she is very conscious about what she puts up online. "I know they are going to check it and I have to know what I'm saying and who I'm talking to."

For years, parents have worried about the psychological impact of technology on their kids. Dr. Fawver MD of Fort Wayne's Fawver Wellness Clinic says children's brains don't finish developing until about age 23.
"If that's underdeveloped, the problem children and adolescents will have with text messaging and social networking is that there is very little time spent between generating a thought and sending the message," says Dr. Fawver.

Dr. Fawver says it's also about everything one misses when his or her eyes are glued to a phone. "It can cause you to have a hindrance in your academic development, and if you're on the job site, it can cause you to have difficulty with disruptions in your attention span."

Unfortunately, there is no "magic" age for that first social media account or cell phone. There is, however, a need for parental oversight.

"It varies. I think that's where you need to be in tune with your kids," says Lisa.

Her daughter, Heidi agrees. "I guess it would kind of come down to how responsible you are."

For the Hicks family, comprise and continued communication have been the keys to making technology a useful part of their household.

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