Cell phones have become an almost essential part of our society, but they present a tough call for parents who have to figure out when their child is ready for their own cell phone.
Making things even trickier is the fact that everyone has an opinion and thinks they know better than everyone else.
That’s how some kids end up getting a brand new iPhone while they’re still in kindergarten and others have to wait until high school before they get an old hand me down phone from their parents.
Which side is right? What’s the right age to give your kid a cell phone?
I wish I could give you an exact answer, like 12 years, 3 months, and 14 days old. But it’s not quite that simple.
You really have to know your kids and if they’re mature enough to handle a cell phone, because let’s face it…today’s cell phones are not just simple phones.
Smartphones give kids access to powerful educational apps, messaging and chat apps to keep in touch with friends and attend virtual classes, and a virtually endless supply of games to keep them occupied. It also houses all of the knowledge of the internet (the good, the bad, and the ugly).
Some kids are able to handle all of that at a very young age, while some people struggle with it well into adulthood.
According to a study by research firm Influence Central, children on average are getting smartphones at the tender age of ten. That’s down from age 12 back in 2012, so the trend seems to be to get smartphones at younger and younger ages.
But most experts agree the longer you wait to give a child a smartphone the better. As the New York Times explains, “smartphones can be addictive distractions that detract from schoolwork while exposing children to issues like online bullies, child predators, or sexting.”
So before you make a family trip to Verizon to pick out new phones, consider the following:
Is your child responsible with her possessions? If she has a habit of losing things or not taking care of her belongings, she’s probably not ready to take care of an expensive smartphone.
Does your child have a history of making good decisions? Ideally, you’ll consider your child mature for his age and confident he’ll make smart choices. If you’re constantly thinking to yourself, “That boy ain’t right”, it could be a sign he’s just not ready yet.
Does your child need a way to reach you? A five year old is really not going anywhere without mom or dad. But as kids get older and get involved in sports and activities that could change. If your kids are at a soccer tournament or even an overnight trip to a friends house, you might find it reassuring to have a way to keep in touch with them.
Personally, we chose to get our kids cell phones when they went into middle school. That’s when they started taking the bus to school and had after school practices. We wanted them to be able to get in touch with us if they missed the bus or if practice ended early for some reason.
That’s also the age when most of their friends were getting phones of their own. By itself, that’s not a good reason to do something. I don’t believe in keeping up with Joneses. But as our kids all seemed mature enough to handle the responsibility of a smartphone at that age we decided the time was right to make the plunge.
What do you think? At what age should kids get their own cell phones?