At What Age Should Kids Get a Phone?
Tips to help parents decide when their children should get a phone.
Allowing your child to get a cellphone is a very personal decision. Many parents grapple with the pros and cons of their kids having their own phone from a young age. For example, pros might include being able to get in touch with your children when you’re apart or in case of an emergency. Cons might include the increased exposure your kids will get to technology and the online world.
According to Common Sense Media, 42 percent of children have a phone by age 10, 71 percent have a phone by age 12, and 91 percent have a phone by age 14. However, there are no hard and fast rules here. To make the best decision on how old your child should be when they get a phone, keep these tips in mind:
Look beyond age
Common Sense Media also states that age isn’t as important as your child’s maturity level, ability to follow home and school rules, 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.”
Common Sense Media recommends that you consider these questions before agreeing to get your child a phone:
- 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?
Examine your personal situation
For parents with joint custody, there may be additional considerations for getting their child a phone, such as being apart more often. It’s okay to take your parenting situation into account in order to make the best decision for your child. The important thing to remember is that, if possible, you and your co-parent should take each other’s input into account and try to make this decision together.
Another option for co-parents who have small children or just aren’t ready to get their child a phone yet is to communicate with their kids through each other’s devices. This can come with added complications, which is why using a co-parenting communication service can be a huge help. For example, TalkingParents offers an Accountable Calling feature, which allows you to call your co-parent and child without disclosing your phone number. All calls are recorded, keeping communications organized and documented, and Video Calling is offered as well.
Limit phone usage
If you decide to get your child a phone, you can limit usage. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents help maintain balance in their kids online and offline lives by setting rules around media usage in the home. The reason for these limits is that excessive digital media and screen time may put kids at risk for things like:
- Sleep issues
- Poor school performance
- Risky behaviors
- Sexting and predators
- Privacy violations
- Internet gaming disorders
Set phone usage guidelines
If you decide to get your child a phone, you can set guidelines on how they use their device. 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 cellphone usage and what to avoid.
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, read our article, Setting Child Technology Guidelines.