Elizabeth K. Englander
CHICAGO — Children in the third to fifth grades who own cell phones are more likely to be cyberbullied as well as do the cyberbullying compared with traditional bullying, according to research presented at the 2017 AAP National Conference & Exhibition.
“Parents most often purchase their young children cell phones for safety, but it’s important for parents to understand that there may be risks associated with giving a young child a cell phone as well,” Elizabeth K. Englander, PhD, director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center and professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University, told Infectious Diseases in Children.
Researchers examined cell phone ownership among 4,584 children in grades 3, 4 and 5 using survey data collected between 2014 and 2016. In total, 49.6 of students across all grades reported owning a cell phone. Older students were more likely to own cell phones, with 59.8% of fifth graders, 50.6% of fourth graders and 39.5% of third graders reporting having their own cell phone.
Study findings demonstrated that 9.5% of children reported being a victim of cyberbullying. Children who owned cell phones were at higher risk of being cyberbullied, particularly third and fourth graders. Additionally, many cell phone owners in all three grade levels reported being a cyberbully as well.
The researchers suggest that the heightened likelihood of cyberbullying relating to phone ownership may be due to increased opportunity and vulnerability. Owning a cell phone allows children to text and access social media continuously, increasing online communication with other students, and providing more chances to engage with each other in impulsive, negative ways.
“Physicians and parents can help guard against this by discussing proper cell phone etiquette with young children who are new phone owners,” Englander said.
She suggests that this research should remind parents to think about the risks not just the benefits when deciding whether to give their elementary school-aged child a cell phone, according to the release. – by Savannah Demko
Englander EK, et al. Cell phone ownership and cyberbullying in 8-11 year olds: New Research. Presented at: AAP 2017 National Conference & Exhibition; Sept. 16–19, 2017; Chicago.
Disclosures: Englander reports no relevant financial disclosures.