Everything You Know About Mobile Devices Is Wrong

Or is it? This is a casual look at some of the things that have been thought and said about technology over the past several years, particularly as related to health, and even more specifically in connection with childhood obesity.

Stanford Medicine is a name with considerable weight, and last fall that august institution published the results of a five-year study of 250 kids and their cell phones. The participants were “7 to 11 years old when the study began and 11 to 15 by the conclusion of the research,” pediatrics science writer Erin Digitale reported:

The average age at which children received their first phones was 11.6 years old, with phone acquisition climbing steeply between 10.7 and 12.5 years of age, a period during which half of the children acquired their first phones.

The decision was made by the parents. The subjects were low-income Latino children, and the phone questions were part of a childhood obesity project, which in turn is part of a larger concept, the Human Screenome Project. Senior author Thomas Robinson, M.D., noted that the parents seem to have done a good job in determining the appropriate ages for their own children, and the results “should be seen as empowering parents to do what they think is right for their family.” One interesting detail is that 99% of the kids had smartphones rather than any other kind.

The world is a stage

The meticulously conducted study failed to find meaningful links between first-phone age and general well-being (or lack thereof). That quality was measured by looking at factors including but not limited to school grades, depression symptoms, and sleep habits. Other information had to do with the child’s sex, stage of puberty, birth order, birth country, family income, language spoken at home, and biographical information about their parents.

There are of course standards and parameters for such studies. Data must meet the challenge of being statistically significant, and determining that is a whole science in itself. Digitale continued,

When deciding to give a child a mobile phone, parents typically weigh many factors, such as whether the child needs a phone to let parents know their whereabouts, access the internet or maintain social connections; how much the phone may distract the child from sleep, homework or other activities; and whether the child is mature enough to handle risks such as exposure to social media, cyber bullying or violent online content.

Xiaoran Sun, Ph.D., of both Stanford Medicine and Stanford Data Science, and lead author of the study published by Child Development Journal, told the reporter, “There doesn’t seem to be a golden rule about waiting until eighth grade or a certain age.” According to Dr. Sun,

The researchers note it may be more important to study what children are doing with their technology than simply whether they own a phone.

The present

For the current state of the fusion of electronic technology and childhood obesity treatment, please see Dr. Pretlow’s BrainWeighve.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Age that kids acquire mobile phones not linked to well-being, says Stanford Medicine study,” Stanford.edu, 11/21/22
Image by Pabak Sarkar/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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