Study: Young kids with cell phones face cyberbullying

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Parents might want to think twice at what age they start allowing their child to carry a cell phone.

A new study by Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts found cyberbullying starts early, and 8-and-9-year-olds with cell phones are especially vulnerable.

Researchers surveyed nearly 4,600 third, fourth and fifth graders between 2014 and 2016 and found about 10% of them said they'd been victims of a cyberbully. However, younger students with phones were much more likely to report electronic abuse.

Cellphones also increased the students' odds of becoming cyberbullies themselves. This was true in all three grades, the study found.

Researchers say having a phone gives kids more opportunity to positively or negatively interact with their peers. They also say constant access increases the likelihood for students to send impulsive texts or messages.

The study authors cautioned parents to consider the potential downside of providing a cellphone to a child not yet in middle school.

The study findings will be presented next week at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in Chicago. Until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary.