At what age should kids get a phone? The truth is that’s a very involved question that only you as a parent can answer for your kids. What it means to have a phone and the capabilities of what a phone can do have been rapidly changing over the years since these once simple devices became mobile.
Along with all of the amazing ways smartphones can now organize and streamline our lives, they are also the root cause of unfortunate side effects such as
Growing into adulthood along with the development of simple phones into smartphones, many adults have had to navigate these ever-changing pros and cons of this arena on their own and found it challenging enough. And now, as a parent, you also have to navigate this sphere for your child.
Depending on your generational designation, your parents might not have truly had to deal with the difficult parenting questions that arise from something as seemingly simple as a phone. However, the age your child should get a phone is quickly becoming a major modern parenting concern. This also includes your personal approach to how you live with your own device, and how you demonstrate that proper/healthy approach to your kids.
What age should kids get a phone is a personal parenting choice, but it might not be an easy one. Here are just a few things to consider before making that decision for your kids.
The first question to consider before determining what age should kids get a phone is why they should get one.
With the age of kids receiving their first phone getting younger by the year, currently as early as 8 or 10 years old on average, it’s likely that many of your kid’s friends already have a phone. This can cause undue social pressure on your child to have one. If the reason you are considering getting our child a phone is simply that they want one or because other kids already have one, that’s probably not a good enough reason.
Your child is highly impressionable in their early years. It has been shown that too much use of technology at a young age can significantly negatively affect your child’s development in the areas of cognition, social awareness, and physical health.
Still, many parents want their kids to have a phone earlier for convenience or safety reasons. For example, maybe your child has to walk home by themselves. Or maybe they are involved in after-school extracurricular activities or are entrusted with various after-school jobs such as babysitting or yard work. In these cases when they are on their own, you might want your child to have a way to communicate with you for scheduling reasons. Or even just for safety, like a text ensuring they made it to their scheduled event safely or are on their way home.
For these reasons giving your child a phone might be the best option. However, if this is the only reason you feel your child needs a phone, they probably don’t need a smartphone with full 24/7 internet access. Instead, a simple flip-style phone for the strict purposes of calling and texting will serve this purpose.
In truth, answering the question of what age should kids get a phone should not just be determined by a number of years. Rather, it should be determined by a level of maturity and responsibility exhibited. Owning a phone, especially a smartphone, is a significant responsibility – financially, socially, developmentally, and otherwise. It should be a personal decision based on the child as an individual and their capabilities.
Consider how responsible and mature they are. Is your child the type to lose or break things easily? If so, they might not be ready for an expensive electronic device like a smartphone that takes intentional maintenance and care. Likewise, can you trust your child to follow rules such as screentime and usage boundaries? If you can trust your child to follow your rules and judgment regarding personal phone usage, then they might be ready for one. However, if not, adding a phone into the mix could become the source of countless arguments and unnecessary discord. Much more so even than any arguments arising from whether they should have one or not.
Next, is your child fully aware of the financial responsibility of owning a phone? It is up to you to decide conditions such as who pays for the phone, who pays for service, the amount of data usage allowed, who pays for the phone if it is lost or damaged, etc. Before you give your child a phone, make sure they are fully aware of and are agreed to these stipulations.
The social aspect of what age should kids get a phone can be tricky to navigate. Especially in the arena of social media. First of all, social media isn’t going away any time soon. Therefore, your kids will likely be exposed to it at some point. It’s important to teach your kids about the pros and especially the cons of social media. Particularly if they are going to have 24/7 constant access to it on a smartphone.
Social media and texting can be a great way to keep your kids connected to their friends and up to date with society. However, things like cyberbullying, screen addiction, predators, inappropriate messaging, and exposure to age-inappropriate content on the internet and social media are all very real concerns as well. Make sure your kids are fully informed of these concerns, and of any parental controls and limits you choose to enact out of caution and protection because of them.
Not only that, but you need to make sure your kids are mature enough socially to be able to connect naturally in a physical social environment with their real friends instead of depending on manufactured online social interactions.
Even the billionaire and tech mogul Bill Gates, himself a major contributor to the advancement of this technology, understands the importance of these concerns. In his family, he has not allowed his own kids to have a cell phone until the high school age of 14 years old, well past the age most of their friends were allowed phones. This is the age he has been quoted as saying is “safest” to give a child a phone. Not only that, but in his household they observe strict screen time boundaries. These boundaries include no phones at the dinner table and a phone curfew well before bedtime to ensure proper rest at night.
Whether you agree with Bill Gates about what age should kids get a phone or not, that choice is up to you as a parent. And it shouldn’t be made lightly. Take these and other factors that are important to you into consideration when making your decision.
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