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What you need to know before getting your kid a phone

Posted: 6:37 AM, Feb 24, 2022
Updated: 2022-02-25 07:28:40-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It's a question that every parent eventually asks: When should I get my child a phone?

The answer is different for every family, but there are some important things to consider before making the decision.

"I would say 16, which wouldn't make me very popular with a lot of people," Kristen Przewlocki, a child psychologist, said. "But I think if you are going to go lower than that, I wouldn't go any younger than high school."

Przewlocki said that waiting longer is beneficial as teenagers brains are not fully developed, but holding off that long can be difficult when children are seeing their friends all get new phones.

"We always said it doesn't matter how many of your friends have phones. That's not what we care about," Aimee Dobbins, who just went through the process of getting her 13-year-old a phone, said. "We don't really want you to have access to the world and have the world have access to you."

Dobbins decided to get her daughter a GABB phone. This is one of a few phones out there that does not have access to the internet or social media. It has the basic call, text, and camera features.

"It's really great to be able to know that I can reach her quickly," Dobbins said. "It's something that can provide a lot of peace of mind for our family."

This phone allows her to avoid some of the dangers that are out on social media and come with having a smartphone.

"It's not so much the phone itself. It's the applications and the social media platforms that create a lot of the dangers associated with us," Lt. Matthew Horetski, the Oro Valley Police Department Public Information Officer, said.

One of the issues that they often see among teens is cyberbullying.

"It's easier to have some courage to bully when it's not face to face," Horetski said.

Teens often can be mean and messages can be misconstrued over text and on social media, Przewlocki said.

"You can spew off something you wouldn't have the guts to say something in person," Przewlocki added.

Social media can present a false reality, the therapist said. It's also a place where predators can hide behind false identities, according to the police.

"They specifically use these platforms to lure impressionable minds," Horetski said. "[They] groom these younger kids who are impressionable and they develop a rapport and a relationship of trust and for whatever reason they cant identify the danger."

Predators target both boys and girls, and it can become dangerous if parents don't know what is going on.

"I've seen boys who have been catfished, where they think they are talking to young girl and then all the sudden they are sending inappropriate pictures," Przewlocki said. "Then all the sudden they are being told by this person that if they don't send money, the person with all these pictures will tell their parents of things like that."

To avoid these situations, parents should be aware about what their kids are doing on their phone.

"What we would encourage is to be a diligent parent," Horetski said. "Know who your children's friends are. Make sure you know who the friends on the different apps and platforms are. Know who they are communicating with."

The police also said that in the event something ever happens, you should know your child's passwords.

"If a child is using their phone appropriately, there is no reason why you cant at any moment pick it up and see whats on their phone," Przewlocki said. "I'm not saying you have to read it line for line, like they can have some autonomy, but they shouldn't be afraid of you just picking it up."

There are also a number of settings you can control on your child's phone. Some of them allow you to control what apps are downloaded and the amount of time your child can be on the phone.

If you are going to get your child a phone, make sure to look at the setting options available.

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Greg Bradbury is a reporter for KGUN 9. Greg is a recent graduate of Syracuse University where he studied Broadcast Journalism and Spanish. During his time at SU, he spent the majority of his time at the school's TV station, CitrusTV. Over the course of 3 years there, he worked as a reporter, anchor, and news director. Greg joined KGUN 9 in February 2021 as a Multimedia Journalist after working at the ABC National Desk as a Digital News Associate. Share your story ideas and important issues with Greg by emailing greg.bradbury@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.