Hold the phone — it might not be the best idea for your child.
Cellphone owners in third and fourth grade are significantly more likely to fall prey to cyberbullying, according to research set to be presented Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition. It gets worse: Third, fourth and fifth graders with cell phones are more likely to admit having cyberbullied others.
The study, analyzing data from late 2014 to 2016 from more than 4,500 students across the three grades, found that 49.6 percent were cellphone owners: 39.5 percent of third graders, 50.6 percent of fourth graders and 59.8 percent of fifth graders. Nine and a half percent of the total said they’d endured cyberbullying, while 5.8 percent copped to cyberbullying peers.
The researchers speculate the link between phone ownership and cyberbullying might stem from kids’ heightened opportunity to engage with peers through social media and texting, as well as impulsive responses to others’ messages.
“Parents often cite the benefits of giving their child a cell phone, but our research suggests that giving young children these devices may have unforeseen risks as well,” study author Elizabeth K. Englander, a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University, said in a statement. “At the very least, parents can engage in discussions and education with their child about the responsibilities inherent in owning a mobile device and the general rules for communicating in the social sphere.”
While the study abstract didn’t specify whether it looked at smartphones specifically, the average age for kids acquiring their first smartphone is 10.3, according to the firm Influence Central. Typical motivations for buying a cellphone for children include pickup coordination, safety and a greater sense of responsibility. And lower prices for smartphones — plenty of options exist between $200 to $400 — have probably played into the reasons why parents feel OK buying one for their young kids.
But a “Wait Until 8th” campaign currently urges parents to hold off until their kids reach at least the eighth grade, blaming kids’ smartphone ownership for distraction, difficulty sleeping, exposure to sexual content, risk of anxiety and depression and cyberbullying.
The AAP research marked the latest link between cyberbullying and phone use. A New York Post analysis earlier this year found that in the two years since Mayor de Blasio lifted the cellphone ban on city public schools, cyberbullying shot up 351 percent — despite an anti-cyberbullying campaign warning kids “Misuse It, You Lose It.”