You could be struggling to hold your reins as your child steps into a whole new world of freedom with this powerful gadget in their possession. 

We never had to ask this question in the past. Now, parents are faced with a tricky dilemma – to give or not to give your child a smartphone when they ask for one? And… when is the right time? When kids these days ask for a cell phone, they no longer refer to the boxy screens that come with a keypad and serve two sole functions of voice call and text messaging. Smartphones in this present age practically refer to smartphones with touchscreens and the ever-increasing functions that we can never seem to get enough of. 

The answer to the question of when your child should own a personal mobile phone is made even harder because most of us can’t relate back to our own childhood to see how this issue was handled. After all, smartphones were not around when we were our children’s age.  

There are many different schools of thoughts regarding when children should own a phone. Although most research has found that the average age where children have their first smartphone is between ten to thirteen years old, the consensus is that this decision is highly subjective. It is ultimately a personal decision that varies from child to child, depending on their level of maturity and need. 

Instead of asking what is the “most suitable” age for your child to own a personal smartphone, you should ask – why does my child need a cell phone? And, is my child ready for one? 

Smartphone: A Necessity or Luxury?

The most convincing reason to get your child a phone would be the need to stay in touch with them, especially during times when you are physically apart. 

“I’d need to call you when soccer practice is over”, they plead. Well, that’s true. A cell phone is extremely useful in situations in which your child needs to contact you. As kids grow up and become more independent, the need to keep in touch with them increases as well. Not only does a smartphone create convenience for communication, but it also gives you an added sense of security knowing that you’re able to reach your child instantaneously in cases of emergency.

Particularly for children who commute by themselves, a cell phone is probably a necessity. 

On the other hand, gifting your child with a smartphone may be a form of luxury instead. Some children feel that they need to have a phone just because their peers are showing off theirs in school. However, parents would need to decide for themselves whether or not their child is truly ready for a smartphone. 

Is My Child Ready for This New Responsibility? 

Cost aside, the reason why many parents are hesitant in getting their child a smartphone is because of the responsibility it entails. 

Giving your child a smartphone is like opening a Pandora’s box. While it brings endless convenience, it could also pose a threat to young children who are lacking in maturity to handle its dangers. Besides the possibility of your child losing this expensive toy somewhere, the probability of it becoming a form of detrimental distraction and obstacle to development is also concerning. Furthermore, the risk of exposure to cybercrimes and online threats is an absolute nightmare. You wouldn’t want your 7-year-old to go around entertaining strangers’ texts and disclosing personal information over a call. 

Hence, to assess whether or not your child is ready to tackle the responsibilities of owning a smartphone, you can consider the following questions: 

  • Does your child lose their belongings easily? Can they be trusted to keep personal belongings safe? (e.g. wallet) 
  • Does your child know the value of money? 
  • Is your child educated on cyber safety and aware of some common dangers/scams?
  • Is your child disciplined? Do they adhere to the rules you set on their screen-time/playtime? 

Parents would eventually need to decide for themselves if their child needs or is ready for a smartphone. In the case where you feel like a smartphone is an absolute need but you aren’t exactly confident in letting your child handle its responsibilities yet, an old-school flip phone without the smartphone functions would do the job. 

Remember, it’s not about the age that determines when your child should own a personal mobile phone – but a matter of whether they are mature enough to handle one. When the time comes, make sure that you teach your child on mobile phone safety and set some limits. Good luck!

Reference List:

1. Chen, Brian X. “What’s the Right Age for a Child to Get a Smartphone?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 July 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/technology/personaltech/whats-the-right-age-to-give-a-child-a-smartphone.html

2. Cohen, Danielle. When Should You Get Your Kid a Phone?21 Mar. 2019, https://childmind.org/article/when-should-you-get-your-kid-a-phone/ 

3. Stein, Stacey. An Age-by-Age Guide to Kids and Smartphones. 21 Mar. 2018, www.commonsensemedia.org/cellphone-parenting/whats-the-right-age-for-parents-to-get-their-kids-a-cell-phone

4. Vincent Iannelli, MD. Is Your Child Ready to Have a Cell Phone of Their Own? 3 Feb. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-cell-phones-2633996

 5. “What’s the Right Age for Parents to Get Their Kids a Cell Phone?” Common Sense Media: Ratings, Reviews, and Advice, www.commonsensemedia.org/cellphone-parenting/whats-the-right-age-for-parents-to-get-their-kids-a-cell-phone.