Do you remember being a kid and begging your parents for your own phone? Maybe you wanted one of those awesome phones that were clear so you could see all the mechanisms inside. And perhaps, if your parents were feeling especially generous, you would get your own phone line! Ah, those were the (simpler) days.
Now, we are parents, and instead of the most exciting advancement in phones being cordless, or maybe a cell phone that had the Snake Game, there are smartphones. These phones are literal computers in the palm of our hands and our kids want them. Kids as early as four and five are asking for their own phones!
If you are currently up against this all-too-common request and are wondering what is the best age for a kid to have a phone, we are here to help. Here are some things to consider when deciding the best age for your kid to have a phone.
Is There A Perfect Age For A Kid To Get A Phone?
The average age for getting a phone is 10.3 years old. Keep in mind, this is the average age and does not mean your kid has to have one at the same time. There are a few things to consider when deciding on the best age for your child. The truth is, deciding on when to give your child the responsibility of a phone depends a lot on their maturity and responsibility level.
For some kids, they are mature enough for a phone by the time they are 10 or 11, while another kid may not be mature enough even at 14. Maturity depends on things like social skills and the ability to follow the guidelines you have made for the phone’s usage.
A phone doesn’t mean what it used to. Making a phone call is probably the last thing your kids want to do with their phones. Online video viewing is the number one use of phones. Being mature enough to choose appropriate content to watch is an important part of phone usage.
Understanding your child’s responsibility level is also key. Do they respect your household rules? Do they keep track of their things? Do they take care of the possessions? Do they follow through with their tasks at home or at school? If you can say yes to these questions, they may be able to handle the responsibility of a phone. Explain to them that it is a privilege to have a phone, and it needs to be treated as such.
Reasons For Getting Your Child A Phone
Like any hard decision, making a pros and cons list is a good place to start. Let’s talk about some of the pros for a child to have a phone.
If your child walks home from school, rides the school bus, is home alone at times, or is often at sports practice or a friend’s house, it may be a good idea for them to have a phone. Gone are the days of home phones and payphones at every corner. Being able to communicate with your child during the day will give you both peace of mind.
Teaches Them Phone Boundaries
Understanding boundaries is an important lesson to learn as a child. A phone can teach personal boundaries, like setting limits to how long they can be on their phone during the day. It can also teach kids to have boundaries on what apps and content are appropriate. Having communication with them around boundaries and the phone can be great learning moments.
Kids no longer have to scour the library to find out how computers are made. They can simply go onto their phone and search for the answer to this question or anything else they may be interested in.
There are also a plethora of learning apps that are available for smartphones, such as Caribu. Kids can read a new book, play games, and draw pictures all in one device in the palm of their hand.
With the use of a phone comes the introduction of social media. 90% of teens ages 13-17 have social media accounts. It can feel a little unnerving when your kids are introduced to social media, but that’s why you’ve raised those incredible humans to know the difference between right and wrong.
Help them understand that social media is an extension of real life, and to bring their values with them to the online world. There are pros to social media such as connecting with friends, sharing art or music, and finding an online community with similar interests.
Caribu also helps connect your kids with trusted friends and loved ones, and in a safe and secure way, which is a bonus. Not only can your kids talk to grandma and grandpa, but they engage with them through reading a book in the app or playing a game.
Kids, especially younger kids, can lose interest in video-chatting very quickly. Giving them something else to experience during the call can help them to stay engaged and connected to their loved ones.
Cons Of Getting Your Kid A Phone
Of course, there are some reasons you may not want to get your kid a phone.
Too Much Screen Time
We are coming out of a global pandemic where the only way to stay safe was to stay home. Our only connection to the outside world was our tiny screens. Think about how hard that was for us as adults to navigate the appropriate use of screens during this time.
It is asking a lot for a child to understand that looking at a phone all day can be harmful to their mental and physical health. We need to move around and play and see the world through our own eyes, not only a screen. Giving them a phone, especially if they are not mature enough to abide by screen time rules, may only add to the many, many hours they are on a screen.
Not surprisingly, phones are very expensive. The phones kids want nowadays are $600 or more, and cell phone plans add to the cost. Adding another phone to the family is a significant cost for a family budget.
Bullying has been around for ages. It used to be that when the kids went home, for the most part, bullying stopped. Now, if a child is being bullied, they can be bullied at all hours of the day.
While we cannot protect our kids from everything and we can’t understand why there are bullies in the world, we can teach our kids to understand what it means to be a bully, and how not to become one and what to do if they feel like they are being bullied.
Too Much Information
With a phone, the world is at their fingertips. This means all the good, bad, inappropriate, scary, sad, happy, beautiful things that are available on the web our kids can see. Kids’ brains, especially younger kids, are not developed enough to process all of this information.
Giving them guidelines on times and locations they can use their phone can help minimize what they see. There are also apps that can help you monitor your kids’ phone if you feel they cannot monitor themselves.
How To Prepare Your Kid For A Phone
Phones are a big responsibility and it comes with consequences if not handled appropriately. Would you hand keys over to your child and tell them to hop in the driver’s seat without lessons? Of course you wouldn’t! The same goes for a phone.
Open communication is key before giving your kids a phone. Let them understand how much responsibility it takes to have a phone. Together, set screen time limits. If you include them in this discussion, they will have ownership in the limits set. In this conversation, make sure they also understand the consequences of not following through on the phone rules.
Within screen time limits, also include locations the phone may not be used, like the dinner table, bathroom, or the bedroom at certain times. Make certain times screen-free. You can make a phone basket for all of the phones during this time.
It’s Your Call
If you are thinking about giving your kid a cell phone, or if they are at your side begging you for one right now, there are a lot of things to consider. Making a pros and cons list to understand each and weigh the risk versus reward is a great place to start. At the end of the day, you know your child.
You know if they are responsible and mature enough to take on such a big responsibility. Don’t forget, if you decide the time is right for them to get their phone, make sure to keep the lines of communication open to help you both navigate this new chapter together.
Caribu understands the uncertainty of giving kids the freedom of their own phones. Our app teaches kids at a young age how to appropriately use this incredible technology.