When Should You Get Your Kid A Phone?
This particular blog is intended to help you determine the right time for giving a cell phone to your child, not to discuss whether to give a cell phone to your child.
Having a personal smart phone seems to have become somewhat of a rite of passage for most kids.
Cell phones, with all their convenience, burst open the door to a child’s social connections, friendships, and access to all that can be found on the internet.
Having an appliance with such connectedness is more of a recent trend within the last decade. It’s almost pre-historic to think about how we “managed” without one growing up. I’d say we managed quite well, thank you, coiled cord attached to the phone, and all.
However, since a cell phone is so engaging, and perhaps because it’s so engaging, is there a “right” age to buy your child a cell phone? How do we know when that moment arrives?
Let’s consider three factors to help you decide when is the right time to give your child a phone.
Factor #1 – After School Activities Take Up Many of the Week Nights
If your child wants to be involved in a list of activities, those activities come with relying on us, as well as other parent’s for carpools and specific times for pick-ups and drop-offs.
If practice ends early or the carpool parent doesn’t show up, how will your child get a hold of you? If a game gets canceled or you are stuck at work, will you want to know your child arrived home safely, or if she is stranded?
Is taking a risk relying on others a parenting strategy you’re comfortable with?
Being old enough to be dropped off at practices or activities is a reasonable justification to be given a phone for basic communication with you.
Factor #2 – How Often Is Your Child Home Alone?
Many parents both work. If that describes your household, your child likely comes home to a vacant house for several hours.
In this scenario, it might be time to consider an additional way for your child to communicate with you, especially if you’ve abandoned your landline like most of us.
A cell phone offers an additional layer of security for your child while home alone.
Factor #3 – Is Your Child’s Maturity Level Ready for the Responsibility of a Cell Phone?
We might all think of our child as responsible, but here is a quick checklist to help evaluate: Is your child a good listener? Does he take care of his belongings? When given freedom to make his own choices, does he choose well? Is he dependable?
All of these attributes, and more, combine to define a responsible child worthy of being given a chance to manage an expensive cell phone.
Even with a checklist though, kids are kids and things happen no matter how responsible they are. Phones fall into pools or toilets, friends borrow and break them, or they get stolen or lost. Prepare yourself for various iterations of these events … take a big breath and get the insurance.
With a phone, also comes access to the internet. Make sure to set aside time for a candid conversation with your child, where you outline your expectations for sharing passwords, using internet filters, and explaining your approved time ranges for phone use.
Just because your child can gain entry to the internet doesn’t mean they have to have complete access to it. Educate yourself on the available ways to sift through age-appropriate content.
Reputable Resources for Age-Appropriate Phone & Computer Filters
Best Parent Control Apps for 2021:
Safewise Parental Control Filters Buyers Guide
Best Internet Filters for Your Kid’s Phones and Tablets:
Famisafe Wondershare Best Internet Filters
Another valuable resource for reviews on all digital media is:
Common Sense Media Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls
Best Considerations for Getting Your Child a Cell Phone
Below you’ll find things to consider.
Being able to learn social norms and interact with friends on a level playing field, sooner than later, allows us the opportunity for many teachable moments. Done right, spoon feeding our kids with trust and responsibility builds strong relationships.
A phone adds an extra layer of security and safety for your child to reach out to you or a trusted relative when needed. This is especially helpful when events don’t go as planned, which happens frequently.
Remember, kids are adults in training. Any time we get to expose our children to new experiences, they learn what it takes to live in the real world.
Each of these experiences provides an opportunity for our kids to sharpen their decision-making skills. One of the best parenting practices is to allow our kids to handle responsibility, be accountable and manage any consequences to their decisions.
Having a phone, when handled correctly, gives us many chances to reinforce those values.
Unlimited Educational Resources
There are endless educational apps for your child to download to help them with homework. Practice learning Spanish with Duolingo. Math trouble? Yep, there’s an app for that too. Pick any subject; there is an app available to help.
Improving Organizational Skills
With a cell phone, kids don’t need to be reminded about appointments after school, they can set their own reminders.
If you dread walking into the lion’s den for early morning wake-ups, you are off the hook because they are in charge of getting themselves up by setting an alarm…on their phone.
An opt-in for a cell phone can be a positive parenting solution for all the above reasons and many more.
If your child isn’t quite ready for a smartphone yet, consider getting a Jitterbug, which is a practice phone of sorts for kids (and seniors). It’s designed for only making calls. If using that type of phone goes well, you can consider an upgrade.
Final Thoughts On Phones For Kids
There is no right or wrong time to buy your child a cell phone because every child is different.
If you are on the fence or just needed a nudge to justify taking the leap, hopefully, you found some useful points to ponder here.