At what age should a child have a phone? A therapist and parenting expert answers

Mobile phones have become an integral part of our daily life and therefore it is natural for children to want to own one. However, the question of what age to give a child a cell phone is not a simple one and requires careful consideration. That’s why purewow asked a family therapist and parenting expert to comment.

Meet the experts:

At what age is it appropriate to give a smartphone to a child?

CF: Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not universal. It depends on the child’s personality, maturity and the needs of the family. For example, if a 10-year-old is walking home alone from school, this can be a useful tool. However, this may not be helpful for a 12-year-old who has broken multiple phones or misused them for inappropriate activities.

KG: It varies and is something that parents and guardians should consider very carefully before purchasing. It’s important to consider things like maturity, which can vary from child to child. It’s also important to remember that a phone gives you access to the world, and that’s a big responsibility.

What are the advantages of giving a child a smartphone?

CF: Phones have built-in tracking devices that can be used to ensure a child is safe from running away, being abducted or kidnapped. In fact, if a child is in danger, this tool can mean the difference between life and death. It can also promote the safety and comfort of separated or blended families by allowing children to connect with loved ones whenever they want.

KQ: I’d say the main benefits are pretty obvious: smartphones facilitate communication with family, school, and work, and can be especially useful in emergencies.

But what about the drawbacks?

CF: Phones can be misunderstood and misused, and children can be exploited by malicious people. Appropriate parental controls, such as teaching children not to talk to strangers, along with planned and ongoing conversations about how to interact with others on devices, can minimize these risks.

KG: Smartphones are often very powerful tools for children’s brains to process all the information and use it responsibly. There are alternatives, such as watches, that can meet the needs of families in certain situations — and often, given the science and statistics surrounding screen addiction, it’s best to wait or offer an alternative.

It can also create issues of attention span and technology dependency, and create more room for pushing boundaries and other arguments about technology use and access to digital content. Phones can also increase the risk of encountering cyberbullying issues, and depending on the child’s age, parents should also be aware of the risks.

What rules can parents apply when offering a smartphone to their child?

CF: To start, parents should consider the type of device that can be used for the family’s needs and familiarize themselves with the parental controls available on the device in question. It’s also wise to consider the amount of time kids spend on devices.

KQ: It’s really like a car, like I said, it’s a big responsibility. Be sure to set time limits for phone use and consider banning them from bedrooms, especially during the evening hours. Digital abuse, cyberbullying, etc. It’s important to have tough but relevant conversations about topics like Part of that means being open about the consequences of abuse.

Considering that children and families are different, when did you decide or plan to give your own children a phone?

KQ: I have two children, 10 and 11, and neither of them have a phone. I can’t say what age they will be because I’m not sure yet. But at this point I have absolutely no need to own one. They know to ask adults if they need to contact me, they know my number, and they can call me if there’s a problem. We’ll wait until it’s absolutely necessary, which could be high school, although it’s not very common.

JA: I have two children, ages 8 and 11. When I went back to school after the pandemic last year and started playing with the kids in our neighborhood, I gave them two gizmo watches. They can only call the numbers we have programmed. There is no real text function other than a few pre-programmed messages. There is also a GPS tracker. He said that my 11-year-old daughter really needs a phone and some of her friends have phones. We’re not there yet, but we know it will be in the near future.

Family therapists often recommend waiting until age 12 to give a child a cell phone.

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At this age, children are better prepared to deal with the emotional and social problems that may arise when using mobile phones. Therapists also believe that children this age are more likely to respect parental boundaries and online safety rules.

Parenting experts also recommend waiting until the age of 11-13 to give children a cell phone. They feel that this gives them enough time to develop their own personality and judgement, which helps them cope with the emotional and social problems associated with mobile phone use.

Digital safety experts also recommend waiting until ages 11-13 to give children cell phones. They believe that this allows children to understand the potential dangers of the Internet and how to protect themselves from them. Digital safety experts also advise parents to carefully monitor their children’s mobile phone usage and set strict limits on internet access and apps.

Ultimately, the decision to give a child a cell phone depends on the individual needs of each child and family. Parents should consider expert advice, but also assess their own situation and determine whether they are ready to give their child a cell phone.

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