At What Age Should Kids Get a Phone?


Cell Phones for Kids

At what age should your child be allowed to get a phone? Talk about a loaded question, especially if you are a parent arguing this point with your child who is upset that they are the only kid in school without a phone.

Allowing your children to have a cell phone is an extremely personal decision for every parent and family. Almost every expert, non-expert, friend, and family member has an opinion on the subject they’ll be happy to share with you.

Heck, even Bill Gates has weighed in on this question. He didn’t let any of his children get their own phone until they were 14 years old – and they definitely could not get iPhones.

parents help maintain balance in their kids online and off-line lives by setting rules around media usage in the home

Look at More Than Age

Common Sense Media, an independent, non-profit, research-backed organization which makes technology recommendations for families and schools says that age isn’t as important as your child’s maturity level, ability to follow home and school rules, their sense of responsibility, and your own family’s needs.

As they say on their website, “When you hand your children cell phones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully.”

It’s a scary world for parents today with cyberbullying, sexting, porn, identity theft, scams, false information, and violence all just a touch of a button away on our phones. Learn more in our blog, Apps to Monitor Kids’ Phones

Some questions to consider before agreeing to get your child a phone, according to Common Sense are:
  • Do your kids show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house or arrive at a friend’s house?
  • Do your kids tend to lose things frequently?
  • Do your kids need to be in touch with you for safety reasons?
  • Do you think your kids will use their cell phones responsibly – not texting during class, not using their phones to embarrass or harass others, using the photo and video functions responsibly?
  • Can your kids adhere to limits you set for screen time usage or apps downloaded?

Limit Phone Usage

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents help maintain balance in their kids online and off-line lives by setting rules around media usage in the home.

They recommend a family media use plan that sets limits on your kid’s media usage. The reason for these limits is that excessive digital media and screen time may put kids at risk for things like:
  • Obesity
  • Sleep issues
  • Poor school performance
  • Risky behaviors
  • Sexting and predators
  • Privacy violations
  • Cyberbullying
  • Internet gaming disorders
  • Depression.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also set some healthy phone usage guidelines you can apply to your whole family

Set Phone Usage Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also set some healthy phone usage guidelines you can apply to your whole family:
  • Do not allow phones in the bedroom
  • Turn off phones one-hour before bed
  • Turn off phones while doing homework
  • Plan phone-free times, such as mealtimes, family game nights, or evening walks
  • Use sites like Common Sense Media to help you decide if movies, shows, or apps are age and content appropriate for your children
  • Limit screen time for games and entertainment to less than two hours per day
  • Talk to your kids about the importance of safe cell phone usage, including never talking with or friending someone they do not know, never sending sexy text messages or receiving pictures that include people without clothing, never cyberbullying, and reminding them that comments and activities on the Internet can follow them indefinitely
Most importantly, remember that you are your child’s number one role model. If you want them to be good digital citizens, you must be one yourself.

To learn more, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ wide range of resources, articles, and advice for parents on raising kids in the digital age.

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