Buying Your Kid a Cellphone? 4 Things to Think About

NEW YORK ( MainStreet)  —  Parents getting ready to send their kids back to school are in the midst of spending plenty of money on pens, pencils, notebooks and some other more surprising “necessities.”

According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of families have electronics on their school supply shopping lists, including computers, MP3 players, tablets and, yes, cellphones.

However, there are certain things parents need to know before outfitting their child with a mobile device. MainStreet talked to experts to put together a checklist for parents to do their due diligence.

Safety first.

Research has found that cellphones can influence brain activity and be hazardous to your long-term health. While some of these studies remain inconclusive, experts generally agree that parents should severely limit the amount of time their kids spend with radio waves next to their heads.

“Children should minimize cellphone use,” Leeann Brown, a spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group, says. “Young brains absorb twice as much radiation as an adult brain.”

As such, Brown recommends that kids rely on texting instead of talking to avoid radiation exposure to the brain. Parents can also limit the possibility of exposure by buying a low-radiation phone, instructing children on how to hold the phone away from their bodies and limiting the amount of time kids have the phone in their possession.

For instance, “there is very little reason for a child to have a cellphone next to them while they are sleeping,” Larry Magid, co-director of, a website that teaches kids and parents about web safety, says. 

Consider parental controls.

Another way of minimizing exposure is to invest in parental controls offered by phone carriers and a few third-party retailers that allow parents to, among other things, limit the times during which a child can place a call, the numbers from which a call can be received and the amount of text messages that can be sent.