Deciding whether or not your child is ready for a cell phone is just one of the many difficult decisions you will have to make as a parent. With the increasing prevalence of mobile phones, parents may feel pressured to allow their child to have their own, even if they feel they may not be ready. Before caving in to the pressure of giving a child their own cell phone, parents and guardians will want to take into consideration the following advice.

Benefits of kids having a phone.

Aside from the convenience, there are multiple benefits of children having access to their own mobile devices, more specifically, a smartphone. Five benefits to consider before making the purchase include:

  • Educational Support: Giving children smartphones allows them to utilize the variety of tools that are either built-in to the phone or device (calculator, voice recorder, camera) or can be downloaded from the app store (DuoLingo, Goodreads, StudyBlue, etc.) to help them succeed in their studies. They may also access free online lessons, graphics, educational videos, and more.

  • Increased Social Interaction: Children who have a cell phone have the ability to contact their friends and family outside of school, allowing them to further improve their social skills. If your child meets the age requirement set by each company, downloading social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram may also allow them to reach out to others and create a bond with those who share common interests. 

  • Understanding and Taking the Role of Responsibility: Allowing a child to have their own and expensive possession, like a smartphone, can help teach them how to be responsible and take proper care of their belongings. It can also be used as a tool to teach them about money, budgeting, and the consequences of overspending. You can do so by including them on the details of your family plan and letting them know how much data they will have each month.

  • Safety and Security: When kids are begging to be more independent, it can be difficult for parents to know their kids are fully ready for the next stage in their lives. Smartphones can give parents peace of mind, tracking their kids’ whereabouts while still allowing their child/ren to feel free. When they reach their destination, such as a friend’s house, library, or other after-school activities, sending a quick text or call can also ensure that the children are safe, even when they’re away from home. 

  • Tech-Savvy: Technology continues to evolve on a nearly daily basis. Allowing kids to have smartphones may give them an edge when it comes to learning new technological skills. Allowing them to explore the phone’s features may also help build their confidence when using it.

Age and maturity.

According to Common Sense Media, “the right age to give kids their first cell phone is really up to you. Age isn't as important as your kid's maturity level, ability to follow home (and schools') rules, their sense of responsibility, and your own family's needs.” Some children receive their first phone in elementary school. Where this may work for some families, others may prefer to wait until their children are in junior high. 

It can be difficult explaining to your child that you don’t want them to have their own cell phone because you feel they aren’t ready. Fortunately, there are other gadgets that you can give them until you feel they are responsible enough to handle their first phone. 

Advice for early phone usage.

There are 4 questions to ask yourself before buying a smartphone for your child:

  • Are they regularly losing things?

  • Are they responsible?

  • Do you trust them?

  • Are they mature enough?

If you've asked yourself these questions and feel like your child is worthy of owning a smartphone, yet you're still nervous, don't worry just yet. There are plenty of tips to consider to help ease your mind.

  • Find a balance between you and your teen concerning trust and safety;

  • Set up rules and expectations that both you and your child can agree upon;

  • Educate them about the drawbacks of kids having a phone;

  • Teach them about cyberbullying (including how to avoid it and how not to become a cyberbully);

  • Don’t be afraid to take the phone away from them as punishment or to teach them the importance of responsibility;

  • Practice what you preach by putting your phone down during times when using your cell phone may be seen as inappropriate;

  • Look into kids wireless plans;

  • Customize parental settings with child safety locks;

  • Teach them how to practice internet safety. 

It can be a stressful time watching your child grow up, but don't let the question of when to give your kid a phone be the ultimate stressor. By being aware of the pros and cons, suggested age, psychological development, and tips you've been provided, you can securely decide whether or not your child is ready for a smartphone of their own.

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