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Smartphone Usage Rates Spike Among Younger Generation

More than half of 11-year-olds now own their own smartphone, according to a recent national survey of more than 1,600 children between the ages of 8 and 18 years old. And the trend is on the rise.

(TNS) — No one knows the right age to start carrying a computer in your pocket.

But more than half of 11-year-olds now own a smartphone, according to a recent national survey of more than 1,600 8- to 18-year-olds.

And the trend is on the rise.

"The use of technology in our daily lives is aging down dramatically," said Eisha Buch, senior manager of education programs at Common Sense Media, the nonprofit organization that led the survey.

And children are mostly using their smartphones to watch YouTube, regardless of the 13-years-or-older-only policy.

Fifty-six percent of 8- to 12-year-olds watch videos every day, up from 24% in 2015, and the average time spent watching has roughly doubled to just under five hours a day, according to the report.

"We're concerned about how the content takes kids down paths that offer bad information," Buch said.

While usage increases and the age of smartphone ownership decreases, education and guidelines about how to navigate the online information they're exposed to has yet to catch up. The technology used in elementary classrooms is mostly limited to course work and testing, and largely ignores media literacy.

Another recent study by the Pew Research Center revealed that adults felt fake news was more pressing than issues like terrorism, racism and sexism.

So how do children learn to be what Buch calls "responsible digital citizens" and differentiate what's real from what's not, before commenting, sharing or perpetuating questionable online information in real life?

Buch consults with and trains teachers and school leaders about guidelines surrounding such concerns, and organizations like Common Sense Media are working to spread a culture of digital responsibility. In the meantime, the bulk of the work has to come from parents and caretakers.

"It does take a community approach to be effective. We want it coming from home and school so it's being reinforced from everywhere," she said.

And to answer the popular question: What's a good age to give my child a smartphone?

Buch said, "We don't have a magic number, but it depends on what the need is, and whether it feels appropriate. When it happens, we just encourage guidelines and open dialogue about how to use it."

©2019 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.