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Should Kids Have Smartphones?

GLUED TO THE SCREEN Smartphones absorb kids’ attention. Is that a good thing? According to those who took part in our TFK debate, it depends. GETTY IMAGES

Take a look at this photo. Remind you of anyone? Common Sense Media says that 43% of kids 8 to 12 now own a smartphone. Is that a good thing? Many young people tell TIME for Kids that smartphones help them stay in touch with their families.

But some experts advise caution. “Young kids are not particularly well-equipped to regulate their smartphone use,” Julia Storm says. She’s a digital-media wellness educator. Too much time on a device can affect kids’ health and well-being. Should kids have smartphones? TFK asked some. Here’s what they had to say.

COURTESY LAURA GAROFALO

John Garofalo, 11

Scarsdale, New York

There are a few reasons that kids should have smartphones. First, phones allow parents to get in touch with their kids easily. Parents can see their kids’ location and pick them up if there’s an emergency. Second is education. An app like Duolingo helps kids learn Spanish and other languages. YouTube can also be a learning tool when it’s used appropriately. Finally, smartphones help kids communicate with friends. If you move away, you can still stay in touch. This happened to me when I changed schools. Now I can talk to my old friends while I make new ones at my new school.

COURTESY AIKO YANO

Yume Yano, 10

Foster City, California

Smartphones can cause addiction. A study by Baylor University found that college students spend about nine hours a day on their phones! Children are also vulnerable to addiction, because they’re not disciplined enough to set limits. They can lose sight of their interests, dreams, and schoolwork. Studies show that smartphone use can cause anxiety, harm relationships, and even damage kids’ eyesight. I’m not saying that kids should never have electronic devices. But they should also go outside, make art, and spend time with family. Why waste time on a screen?

COURTESY CYRA HUSSAIN

Alina Hussain, 10

Winfield, Illinois

My opinion is that you can have a smartphone, but too much time on it isn’t good. Smartphones can provide entertainment, which we need. But this can be addicting. Watching videos online isn’t the best use of your time. With effort, we’re capable of amazing things. YouTube won’t really help you achieve them. And looking at a screen for too long isn’t good for your vision. But if there’s an emergency, a smartphone lets you call your parents or the authorities. If you need to remember something, you can make a note. These are reasons that kids should have phones.

COURTESY EDUARDO DIEPPA III

Alejandro Dieppa, 10

Miami, Florida

I think kids should not own smartphones. Constantly being exposed to blue light from screens could be bad for their eyes. Smartphones can also distract them from school. And studies say that teens and young adults who spend the most time on social media are more often depressed than those who spend the least time on them. This might happen to kids, too. What about safety? Well, children should always be with adults, so safety is not part of it. With all the risks to schoolwork, health, and happiness, it’s not worth it for kids to have smartphones.

COURTESY MELISSA EASTON

Logan Easton, 10

Mount Albert, Ontario, Canada

There are many good reasons that kids should have smartphones. The most important one is emergencies. Kids can call for help. Or parents can track kids by phone. Another reason is that kids can talk to their friends and family when they are feeling stressed. Or they can ask a friend to come over. And then there’s the remedy for boredom: Kids could use their phones for games and other entertainment. Using smartphones lets us stay safe, communicate with friends, and have fun. Why wouldn’t we want kids to have them?

COURTESY ANNETTE MCCANN

Emily McCann, 9

Pelham, New York

There are many reasons that kids do not need smartphones. First, they could get calls from people they don’t know and get tricked into doing things they are not supposed to do. Some apps could leak kids’ personal information. Kids might also be hurt by a mean comment online. They might not want to spend time with family and friends. And with a phone in their hands, they might not be aware of their surroundings. For example, when crossing a street. Phones can distract you from school, sports, clubs, and homework.

The Next Debate! Do kids need homework? Email your opinion to tfkeditors@timeforkids.com by December 30. Your response might be featured in an upcoming issue.

*Submissions have been edited only for length and clarity. They are not intended to reflect the views of TIME for Kids. Ages are accurate as of the time of submission.