Children can really benefit from having their own cellphone, especially smartphones. However, researchers from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts noted that parents should think twice before giving cellphones to their kids.

In their recent study, the researchers found that children with cell phones are more likely to experience Cyberbullying than those who do not own phones. Cyberbullying, as defined by stopbullying.gov, is a type of bullying that happens online or through texts emails. It includes posting rumors on social media, sharing embarrassing photos and private videos, and making fake profiles to initiate trolling and comment wars.

Phone ownership opens up new, harsh world for child

The study, presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago showed that 9.5 percent of the students in grades 3, 4, and five who have their cellphones experience online bullied.

The researchers believe that phone ownership among children can increase their vulnerability to cyberbullying. Having their own cellphone gives a child easy and continuous access to social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Access to these social media platforms increases a child’s online interaction. Due to this, children have more chances of engaging with their peers. The more engagement they have, the more opportunities of an impulsive response to their peer’s messages and postings. As a result, children may unwillingly be caught in comment wars or be victimized by trolls.

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Phone ownership among elementary students more common

For the study, the researchers surveyed 4,584 students in grades 3, 4, and five between 2014 and 2016. Of those, 49.6 percent reported having their cellphone. Fifth graders were more likely to report owning a phone with 59.8 percent, followed by the fourth graders with 50.6 percent. 39.5 percent of the third graders were phone owners.

Among the students, third graders were less able to define the term “cyberbullying” correctly. Phone owners in grades 3 and 4 were significantly more likely to report being a victim of cyberbullying. Surprisingly, about 5.8 percent of the students with phones admitted that they have experience being a cyberbully.

With the result of the study, the researchers urge parents to consider the potential benefits, as well as risks, of giving a cell phone to their elementary child. They also encourage parents to educate their children about responsible phone ownership and online communicating.