What is the right age to give your child a mobile phone?

best age for a phone

Teens and screens.

Boy, that is one debate that is difficult to solve is it not?

As much as “teens and screens” might roll off the tongue, the thing is figuring out at which age to give your child a smartphone is never a smooth ride.

With toddlers now knowing how to navigate a phone better than most 40+ somethings do, it has become increasingly difficult to decide which is the best age for a phone for a child. A number that seems to be starting younger day by day.

Remember when you got your first phone? It was probably in high school. Or, at the very latest, when you went to college. And that too was likely a dumb phone as smartphones were yet to fully take off then. In fact, you were not even allowed much access to your parents’ phone. All you had was the trusty old landline to call up your pals.

But that scenario has changed drastically now. It is not uncommon to find kids these days mindlessly gobbling down their meals as they eyes are glued to a tiny screen, watching their favourite cartoon. A sight that, unfortunately, that is way too common even in a restaurant.

With that being the current scene, how do you decide your kid is now old enough to have a phone of their own? Let us find out.

Also Read: Harmful Effects of Mobile Phones on Children

Age is just a number…

Honestly, it is not about the best age for a phone.

It is more about is your child ready for a phone? How do you align the introduction of a phone with the right developmental stage for it?

You might think your fifth grader may need a phone so they can call you when in need or connect with you when they are on a sleepover, but it will not be the right age for them to be on the internet or on social media, which form the perils of owning a smartphone at a very young age.

But the pressure on parents is high…

Unforunately, most kids in middle school are likely to pressure their parents to getting them a phone because they think they are old enough. Or that their peers already own one so it is time for them to get their first one too. For them, this is their age to get a cell phone.

In fact, as a parent you might worry too that your kid will end up feeling isolated if they do not have a phone of their own. Especially if their friends already do. What makes this fear worse is that kids as early on as the age of 10 already have regular access to their parents’ phones for gaming or watching videos.

But then again as a parent, it is wiser for you to wait than for you to cave into the pressure. Most experts recommend holding out till your child is 14-16 years old before getting them their first phone. Because by kids by then generally develop a sense of responsibility and ownership, which may make it a proper age for cell phone use as well as ownership.

That said, even if parents allow their kids to use their phone, it is important to put restrictions on phone use so your kids do not end up misusing their phone rights or falling into any kind of trouble online. And as we already know, trouble abounds online for the young, impressionable and uninitiated.

Also Read: Virtual Violence

Putting parental controls is a must

Luckily, smartphones these days are smart enough to put the control of a kid’s phone use in the hands of their parents.

Now as a parent, you can set a lot of safeguards on your kid’s phone to ensure they do not go snooping around in the wrong places. Or invariably land up there due to no fault of their own. You can decide the kind of apps that can be downloaded on the phone, and you can even restrict screen times so kids do not end up wasting all of their time on the phone instead of doing their homework or going outside to play.

You can use tools such as Bark to limit your child’s gaming, entertainment and social media use of their phones. Tools like Bark are also good at monitoring your child’s use of social media and alerting you instantly if they notice suspicious activities such as bullying, sexual content, expression of suicidal tendencies.

Screen Time is another tool built into most phones that you can use to limit your child’s daily screen usage as well as to block out access to certain URLs of your choosing. So if you have already decided now is the best age for phone use for your child, be sure to use these tools at the very least.

Is your child developmentally ready for a phone?

You can find out whether this is the best age for phone use for your child by asking yourself certain questions:

  • Does your child lose things easily?
  • If you tell them you must extra care of something, will they still be careless about it?
  • Is your child good at handling money or do they spend impulsively?
  • Is your child good at picking up social cues? The deficit of this may show up on how they use social media.
  • Is your child tech savvy? Do they comprehend fully that social media posts they put up now might impact their school admissions and employability in the future?
  • Does your child find it difficult to break away from screens?

Analysing the answer to these questions might help you in figuring out if your child is truly at that age where they are ready for a phone.

Kids with ADHD require special attention

Children with ADHD generally already struggle with screen use. They seek constant gratification and engagement, which smartphones are excellent in providing. As such, breaking away from screens for them might be too difficult. They might also be more susceptible to post impulsively in social media, which could potentially land them in trouble. Hence, the age to get a cell phone for them should be decided in consulation with their doctor.

Also Read: Parenting Tips for ADHD Kids

If now is the time to get your kids a phone…

Set rules. And let your kids know about those rules clearly and explicitly so they know that owning a smartphone comes with certain consequences. These sample rules can be a good example:

  • Let your child know that they have to tell you the password to their phone, and that you have the right to confiscate their phone if they use it unwisely.
  • Put a limit on how much screen time they get each day and ensure they respect that limit.
  • Earmark a specific monthly budget for phone related expenditure such as data recharges, in-app purchases etc. Let them know that this limit will not be crossed.
  • Put the phone in a good case and let them know that damage to the phone or loss of it may have consequences.
  • Monitor your child’s social media use and let them know you are.
  • Do not allow phone use during family activities.

At the end of the day, there is no fixed best age for a phone. It is all about when your child is ready to handle a repsonsibility of owning and using a phone wisely. That said, did you find this blog insightful? Check out more such helpful blogs on the EuroSchool website.

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