It’s no secret that kids love electronic gizmos and some parents are giving cell phones to their children when they're as young as 7.

But New Jersey child psychologist Steven Tobias believes this is a bad idea because cyber-predator dangers are real and younger kids can easily put themselves and others at risk without even realizing what they’re doing.

“There is a national movement for kids not to get cell phones until 8th grade and I certainly think that’s reasonable,” he said.

Tobias noted there may be some exceptions to this “but barring that, if they want it for social purposes, 8th grade I think is a reasonable time.”

He believes waiting until a child is in the 8th grade to get a cell phone, when they’re 13 or 14 years old, makes a lot of sense.

“They tend to be more social at that age; they certainly use the phone to contact friends. They’re becoming more independent from their parents," he said. “Around age 14, kids usually have a little more responsibility and are able to hopefully use good judgment.”

But even if parents do wait to give a cell phone to their child until they are 14, Tobias strongly advises them to review the rules before handing it over and make sure everyone understands “it always needs to be the parent’s phone that they’re lending to the kid.”

He stressed that “kids have no right to privacy: Parents should feel free to check their kid’s phone at any time.”

Tobias said it would be great if the different telecommunication carriers “took some responsibility for their product” and embraced the idea of age limits for cell phones because there are potential dangers with advanced technology in the hands of young people.

He also acknowledged some companies are beginning to make it easier for parents to keep tabs on their kids’ cyber behavior, which is a positive step in the right direction.

He pointed out in today’s world, with the growing threat of cyber predators, “using a cell phone takes as much responsibility and judgment as drinking alcohol, and also I think it can be even more addictive."

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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