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Why Jake Skorheim won’t buy his kids a smartphone

With the holidays approaching and gifts being stuffed under Christmas trees, one present becomes an annual debate between parents and children graduating from elementary to middle school — when to get your kids a smartphone.

For Jake Skorheim, host of KIRO Nights, his kids won’t be able to own a smartphone at all.

“I think it’s very dangerous to give kids smartphones at too young of an age,” Skorheim said. “And I think most people can probably agree that a smartphone, when you’re talking about a little kid, is a bad idea. I’m not going to give my kids a smartphone.”

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Instead, he and his wife would allow his kids to own a “dumb phone” — a cellular device that’s more feature-rich than flip phones from the 1990s without giving access to social media, gaming and surfing the web, among other things.

“The basic idea is, if you’re going to leave and you’re in the car, and maybe you didn’t want to break down somewhere so you might need help. Or maybe you were going to a friend’s house and you wanted a quick easy way for parents to check in with you, then you would have this phone to call them,” Skorheim added. “That’s the point of a phone.”

According to Common Sense Media, 42% of kids have a phone by age 10. By age 12, it’s 71%. By 14, it’s 91%. Groups have formed in response to these trends, like Wait Until 8th, a parent group that aims to help parents in a school community band together with a pledge that they won’t give their kids smartphones until they’ve reached the eighth grade.

“Phones have morphed into what they have morphed into, which essentially is this device that sits in your pocket, listens to you all day and then tries to feed you advertisements and invites you to share your every thought and whim and desire with the entire world on social media,” Skorheim said. “When I think back to when I was a teenager and when I was growing up, the worst thing you could have given me is a platform to speak to the world because I didn’t know what my thoughts were. I didn’t know the repercussions of the things that I found funny at the time.”

A helpful tool that has been in development over the last couple of years is parental controls. Smartphones can offer parents the ability to limit access and phone use through parental controls.

Still, Pew Research Center found that most parents (45%) want their kids to wait until they’re between the ages of 12 and 14 to have their first phone.

Additionally, social media is one of the earliest birthday-contingent milestones a child has the ability to accept, with most social media platforms requiring users to be 13 or older.

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“If I hand this over to my kids, this incredible power that is a smartphone, if they’re not ready to wield that power, then I’m not being a very good parent,” Skorheim said. “It’s not safe for them to have access to the things that are on a phone.

“If they’re at a certain age where they’re responsible enough to understand the power of what they have in just in their pocket, all right then,” Skorheim continued.

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here


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