At What Age Should You Give Your Child a Phone?

Reviewed on 8/11/2021

Buying a phone for your child is a personal decision based on your child's maturity level and other factors.
Buying a phone for your child is a personal decision based on your child's maturity level and other factors.

Buying a phone for your child is a personal decision you should make based on the child’s maturity level and ability to follow the rules. Although your child may cry out for a phone from elementary school due to peer pressure, stand firm as a parent.

Waiting longer before allowing them to own a phone may be the best parenting choice you can make. Allowing phones at a tender age exposes them to powerful communication and media-production gadgets that may trigger technology addiction.

Is your child ready for a phone?

‌‌There is a growing trend of parents allowing mobile phone access to infants and younger children. But, before buying your child one, remember there are certain risks involved. They include data collection sites that may expose children to cyberbullying. 

How do you know kids are responsible enough to handle phones without exposure to unnecessary risks?

Consider these factors:

  • If the child is careful with items: If your child easily loses items, even expensive ones, they may also lose the phone you buy them. Also, watch how they spend the money you give them. A spendthrift who impulsively buys lives in the middle of a game may grow to become irresponsible.
  • If they can effortlessly pick up on social cues: A child with slow developmental milestones may not comprehend issues fast enough. The shortfall may be intensified in texting and sharing on social media. Giving such a child a phone is risky because they may not know what’s expected of them in social situations, which may expose them to mockery by their friends.
  • If they are responsible: A responsible child knows they will be held accountable, even for the content they share. You can be sure they will avoid sites and pages you ask them to pass up. If they can't, give them more time to mature.
  • If they have a limit to screen time: You shouldn't give your child a phone if they are always glued to the TV or computer games. If they cannot limit their gaming and watching time without coercion, they may become addicted to the internet and are not ready to own a phone.
  • If they are ready to handle the phone functions responsibly: The text, video, and photo functions of a phone are sensitive. A child can use them to share explicit sexual content, which could damage their lives permanently. If you’re not convinced your child can handle their phone responsibly, hold it until the right time comes.

Child phone safety options for you as a parent

You can connect to the internet through your phone to access services like chat rooms and social media sites. Sadly, the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) is a function that allows users to chat with other contacts anonymously. Before handing your child a phone, ask the manufacturer about the measures they’ve enforced to protect minors.

As a careful parent, ensure your child’s phone is blocked to MA15+ and R18+ content. This is content legally restricted to under 15 and 18, respectively, unless a parent or guardian accompanies them.

If your child accesses sites they shouldn’t, you can filter or block such sites, thanks to parental control tools. 

‌Also, you need to familiarize yourself with social mapping to map your kid’s location if you intend to give them a phone. Today, nearly every phone has GPS technology, which your child can use to share their location with friends. Advise them to only use these features with people they know.

Rules to set before giving your child a phone

If you feel your child qualifies to operate a fully functional phone and are set to take the plunge, have a conversation and set clear rules you expect them to follow. Some phone-related parenting guidelines you can include in your list are:

  • Clarify that you should always know the passwords to their phone and apps and are justified to confiscate the phone if you suspect they’re using it inappropriately.
  • Set phone time limits and insist on it if your child seems too attached to the screen.
  • Agree on the consequences of damaging or losing the phone and the person to pay for repairs or replacement.
  • Let your child know the amount you will offer for data packages or games.
  • Indicate the time of the day and night when phone use is unacceptable, like during meals, family activities, and sleep time.
  • Talk about technology with your child and make them understand you monitor how they use their phones.

‌You can decide to enforce more rules, but clarify them before giving your child that phone. Also, explain the reason for proper phone and technology use, especially in this era. Your children must know that you mean well and are doing so to help them make good decisions. 

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References
SOURCES:

A Common Sense Research Brief: "Technology Addiction Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Media and Young Minds."

Australian Government: "Aged Under 15: what does it mean for classifications?"

Better Health: “Mobile phone safety for children."

Child Mind Institute: “When Should You Get Your Kid a Phone?” “When Should You Come Between a Teenager and Her and Her Phone?"

Federal Trade Commission: “Kids and Mobile Phones."

Harvard Graduate School of Education: “When to Give Your Child a Smartphone."

Interactive Journal of Medical Research: “Media Use by Children, Parents’ Views on Children’s Media Usage.

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