Is it Time for my Kid to Have a Phone?

The question of children owning phones is a new reality for families. As we move into a technology based society, phones are becoming more necessary, and the age of children receiving them is dropping lower and lower; from teenagers to adolescents as well as kids younger than 10 are receiving phones.

Deciding on the right age for your child is a difficult decision. Seeking the advice and experiences of other parents and professionals can offer valuable guidance to parents on when you decide that your child should have a phone. While there’s no right answer, there are circumstances and perspectives to look at. Here are some factors to consider, as well as therapy tips to make this transition well:

Age and MaturityMany experts recommend waiting until a child is at least 11 or 12 years old before giving them a phone. Typically, adolescent aged children begin to develop a sense of responsibility. A phone may be a good place to start in practicing this responsibility. Can they take care of it and use it responsibly? Is your child managing the expectations in your home, are they respecting the boundaries and limits you are setting?  If you answer yes to these questions, your child may be ready to have a phone.

Therapist Tip: Include your child in the conversation. Tell them you’re thinking about giving them a phone and encourage them to demonstrate that they are ready for this responsibility.

Safety and IndependenceAs your child’s age rises, so does their independence. After school extracurriculars, sports or social activities may require your child to have a phone to stay in touch with you. Instead of a hindrance, a phone in these situations actually provides safety and independence.

Therapist Tip: If communication is the only need for your child, we suggest setting the parental controls on apps they can download. If you want to set it old school, give them a non-smart phone (yes, they still make them!)

Social ConnectionFor most children, social media and phones are the primary form of communication amongst peers. As your child gets older, they may feel pressure to have a phone to stay connected with friends and participate in social activities. It’s important to honor your kid’s connection to their friends while also protecting their readiness and mental health. And remember that every family is different! Don’t base your decision on another family’s timeline; a phone is a big commitment and not one to be made under pressure.

Therapist Tip: While a phone is one way for your child to connect with peers, it’s not the only way. In conjunction with a phone, encourage social connection away from technology. Host a game night with your kid and their friends, take them on a hike or simply make your home a place where they can connect away from their screens.

Ultimately, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that works best for your family. If you do decide to buy a phone for your child, be sure to set clear rules and guidelines around its use, such as time limits, safe browsing, and appropriate use. Decade2Connect is available to discuss this decision and support your family as it’s constantly evolving. 

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