When we think about kids with cell phones, we generally imagine tweens and teens — and dread all that middle and high school drama that comes with it (because bullying and being left out are inevitable, and phones only make it easier).
But what about kids even younger? Should 7-year-olds have access to smartphones at lunchtime, when they aren’t being monitored by a teacher or parent, for instance? No one really seems to have an answer, not the teachers and not the parents. This debate is prevalent in many schools, most notably in Montgomery County in Maryland, The Washington Post reported. The district, which used to have a rule that students in fifth grade and older could have cell phones, is now allowing kids ages 6 and up to bring cell phones to school; middle schoolers are allowed to use their devices during lunch.
Many argue that phones provide safety (in case of emergencies), but others saw them as largely unnecessary distractions.
At this point, as the Post pointed out, there is little data or consensus about when is best to introduce cell phones into a child’s life. As a former teacher myself, individual schools often set their own (often confusing) rules, which can be hard to police. Some schools ban smartphones, while others allow them in hallways or during lunch periods, or actively incorporate them into instruction. So there’s a wide range of approaches, and because there is no real consensus on when or how to use them, it can feel like the wild, Wild West.