What is the right age to give your child a phone?

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Earlier this week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced that social media poses a “real risk of harm to children” at his latest consultation. Now, a global study of nearly 30,000 young adults shows a strong correlation between the age at which children receive their first smartphone and the state of their mental health. The study also found that trends in decreased self-worth, motivation, and resilience were stronger among females than among males

“In the study, participants who got their first smartphone before the age of 10 performed worse, on average, than those who didn’t get a phone until they were in their teens. Jessica Gomez, executive director of the Momentos Institute who was not involved in the study, said. In an email to luck.

The researchers determined that the older children were when they received their first smartphone or tablet, the better their mental health was as adults. However, those who got their first smartphone at a younger age were “more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others, and a sense of detachment from reality.”

The study, conducted by Sapien Labs as part of the Global Mind Project, an ongoing survey of global mental health, used a comprehensive assessment called the Mental Health Quotient, or MHQ, to quantify mental well-being. The assessment includes 47 items covering a range of symptoms and mental abilities, which are then categorized into six dimensions of well-being:

  1. Mood and outlook
  2. social self
  3. Adaptability and flexibility
  4. Leadership and motivation
  5. knowledge
  6. Mind-body connection

impact Social media about mental health

According to the statistics found in the Murthy guidelines, teens who spend at least three hours a day on social media “have two times the risk of mental health problems including experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.” The national average for the time eighth and tenth graders spend on social media is 3.5 hours per day.

Although children under the age of 13 are not allowed to sign up for accounts on social media sites, such as TikTok and Snapchat, it is easy to bypass the restrictions. Nearly 95% of 13-17-year-olds reported using a social media platform, while more than a third said they use social media “almost constantly,” as previously reported in luck.

Extensive use of social media negatively affects teens’ sleep. A recent study by De Montfort University Leicester in the UK reports that 12.5% ​​of 10-year-olds lose about one night of sleep per week because they get up in the middle of the night to check notifications.

As a result, the Surgeon General called for more government oversight, such as “age-appropriate health and safety standards for technology platforms” and “a higher level of data privacy for children and adolescents”. However, the most important role will belong to the involvement of parents and caregivers.

How to securely insert the phone (and when)

“It’s important to remember that our brains are integrating with our environments, and that children’s brains are still developing, so it is our responsibility as adults to communicate with and educate our children, particularly as it relates to a key part of modern society: smartphone technology and access to social media,” she says. Dr. Caroline Leaf, neuroscientist and author How to help your child clean up a mental mess. “This means we need to educate ourselves and our children about how to manage this constant content and how it affects the brain.”

Leaf encourages caregivers to talk to their children about how social media affects them and how it makes them feel. But be prepared to explain your reasons for not letting them have a smartphone, if that’s the route you choose.

“Restricting something or just saying no without explanation will only make your child more interested in the ‘forbidden,’” she says. “As parents, we want to educate and guide our children to better prepare them for the modern world, which includes teaching them how to use technology like smartphones and interact with her.”

One option for Leaf shares is to start them off with a foldable phone around the ages of 10 to 13 without access to the Internet or apps, so they can see the value of texting and communication.

“It shows that they are learning to manage communications and encourages them to ask their parents questions,” she explains. “Then using their phone becomes a healthy collaborative effort and you can finally give them more freedom, like a simple smartphone with security restrictions to prevent them from being targeted by unwanted individuals or organizations.”

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