Modern parenting comes with a myriad of new dilemmas to deal with. One issue that plagues many parents is the decision of when to give their child their first phone. The main problem is trying to keep your child present in the real world and safe from the many problems phones can introduce, without having your child be completely cut off socially. So what’s the right timing?
On average, most experts say that about age 12 or 13 is the time when most kids are ready to handle having a phone for the first time. However, the caveat is that every child has their own unique individual needs, and while some might be ready before age 12, some might need some more time.
The reason why this is a good average age is because it’s when most kids start becoming a bit more independent. For example, they might be staying at home alone, walking to their friends’ homes, or going to after school activities. Having a phone can be a huge help in making sure you can contact your child when needed.
Additionally, age 13 is when kids are legally allowed to sign up for social media. Of course, the decision about whether to let your kid be on social media at all rests with you, but be warned, if all of their friends are already on it, you can expect to receive a speech on why you should let them be on it too.
About 45% of parents believe that ages 12 to 14 are acceptable for kids to have a phone, according to Pew Research Center. That number drops to 28% when the age is raised to 15 to 17 and just 16% of parents think kids as young as 9 can have a phone. These surveys truly reflect that it’s mostly an individual call.
So when is it appropriate for a child younger than 12 to have a phone? If your child visits friends in the neighborhood, walks or bikes to school, or starts going to after school activities, it could be a good idea. If you know that your child is responsible, then it could be the right decision.
You should always make sure that you feel like your child is mature enough to handle having a phone, especially if it is a smart phone. First off, phones are expensive, so if your child has a tendency to lose or break things, maybe wait until they’re older or consider starting them off with a less expensive phone like a flip phone before investing any more.
If your kid already struggles with screen addiction, introducing a phone will only make things significantly worse. Use parental controls and rules like “homework first” and limited screen time in order to help them improve this before giving them a smart phone.
You can also start with a kids smartwatch, which is a good bridge between having nothing and having a phone. On any device, you can install parental controls that help you control messages, monitor their contact list, and receive cyberbullying alerts.
At the end of the day, like many parenting choices, it is really ultimately your decision based on your individual kids.