Is your child begging you for a cell phone? If they haven’t yet, prepare yourself, because there will be a day when they come home from school and say, “My friend just got a smartphone. Can I have one?” But when is the right time to get your kids a phone? Don’t worry—use this guide to help determine when you should hand your tween the device.
Why Does Your Child Need a Phone?
The age at which a child would ask their parents for a cell phone is typically around middle-school age. However, take a step back and ask yourself, “Does my child really need a smartphone, or do they just want one?” When your child asks you for a phone, it is probably because their friends have one or they want to join social media.
If this is the case, there are a few other questions you can ask yourself to see if your child really needs a phone in their life. For example, do you frequently leave your kid at home alone? Or do they have a job such as babysitting where they might need to communicate with you? Do they use public transportation? These are all valid scenarios that warrant the need for a phone, so you can keep an eye on your child and stay in touch.
How To Tell if Your Child Is Ready for a Phone
Generally, your kiddo should show a sense of responsibility and maturity if they’re ready for a smartphone. Does your child demonstrate that they can handle and care for electronics? Plus, do they obey your rules when it comes to screen time or chores? When your kids demonstrate that you can trust them, do their chores, use good judgment, and agree to your rules, then they’re likely ready for a phone.
How To Tell if Your Child Isn’t Ready for a Phone
On the flip side, you also need to consider signs your child might not be ready for a smartphone. Every kid is different in their behavior and maturity level; some might be more ready to handle a device than others. However, if they complain, don’t do their chores, talk back, don’t take accountability for their actions, lie, or handle conflicts poorly, they might not be ready to have a phone.
In General, What Is the Appropriate Age?
This is a tricky question because not all adults parent in the same manner, nor do all children behave the same. However, between the ages of 12 and 14 is a great time to consider purchasing a smartphone for your kid. This is typically the age range where tweens begin understanding adult concepts and can practice responsibility. However, if your child is at this current age and you don’t feel like they are ready for a device, then trust your instinct.
Guidelines To Set For Your Child
When you’re ready to take the leap of faith into handing your tween a smartphone, it’s always best to lay down a few guidelines and ground rules.
First and foremost, until your kids are older, you should have a copy of all their passwords to ensure they’re being safe on the internet. Remind them that you are not doing this to invade their privacy, nor do you plan to—you just want to keep them safe.
Limit Screen Time
If you fail to establish this rule right away, your tween will likely live with their face glued to the screen. While it’s perfectly fine to scroll occasionally, it’s not healthy to do this all day, every day. So create specific times of the day to set aside the phone and spend time with family, do homework, and finish chores.
Use Parental Controls
Parental controls are your friend! Let’s say you don’t want your tween reading something on a website, signing up for a specific social media platform, or using chat rooms. Parental controls can help block these websites and apps to prevent your child from using them. While the internet is a marvelous place, it can also be extremely dangerous for children and younger adults, so parental screening can provide kids safety.
Make a Written Agreement
Lastly, consider creating a written agreement you and your child can follow. This might include the times of day they can be on their phone, how often they’ll contact you when out, and which apps and websites are approved. Write down any relevant information you think is essential to this agreement and stick to it until you feel your child is ready for more freedom.
Safety Is Key
Smartphones nowadays are minicomputers right in our back pockets. Incidents can occur if we do not use these devices appropriately. For example, the internet could potentially introduce your child to predators, stalkers, and cyberbullying. As your child ages, they could also text and drive, putting themselves and others at serious risk.
For these reasons, safety is paramount when your kid is using a smartphone. The parental controls we mentioned above come in handy for this. Additionally, you should sit down with your child and go over how to be safe on the internet, so they understand how to interact with it appropriately. Once they reach the age of driving, you can have another conversation about not texting and driving.
Which Type of Device Should I Give My Child?
Now that we covered the basics, we can give an overview of your options regarding the devices your child can use. If they’re younger than 12, you might want to consider a wearable watch to limit internet activity. However, you can still track and talk through this device.
As for a physical cell phone, you could purchase a kid’s phone that offers more parental control or, if you’re trusting enough, a true smartphone. You can always upgrade the device after your tween proves they can handle caring for an electronic.
Pro-tip: For your child’s first device, consider purchasing pre-owned electronics to avoid damaging or breaking a completely new model. Once your tween demonstrates they can handle the responsibility, you can consider a new iPhone or Android.
The right time to get your kids a phone is entirely up to the parents’ discretion. If you’re nervous about how your child will do once they have a smartphone, remember to lead by example. It’s also wise to keep open conversations about your kiddos’ lives, so you can be present in them and ensure they are safe on the internet. We know this can be a scary time for parents, but be confident that you raised your tween to be responsible with their newfound freedom. Plus, you can always take the device away if things get out of hand. Good luck!