At What Age Should You Buy Your Child Their First Phone?

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Smartphone use and youth
How old is your child when he or she gets their first smartphone? Pexels photo (CC0).

Becoming a parent in this day and age is strange as our kids expect so many things that we never got when we were younger. For example, most children reach an age where they start noticing other kids with mobile phones, and they want one for their own. These days, you see kids in elementary school with iPhones or the latest tech on the market. Back when we were in school, we didn’t even know mobile phones existed – we’d be lucky if our parents had one!

There’s no denying that modern technology has made many elements of parenthood much easier. However, it’s also made it harder in many aspects too. Most notable is the smartphone debate. When should you give your child their first phone? Should you give it to them while they’re young or wait as long as possible until they’re maybe in middle school? To help you solve this conundrum, I have a few arguments for and against smartphone use and kids.

Smartphone use and youth
How old is your child when he or she gets their first smartphone? Pexels photo (CC0).

It’s Bad To Stare At Screens

You don’t have to be much of an expert to know that staring at screens all day long is bad for you. It messes with your eyesight, and can also lead to a disruptive sleep. For children, this is a very bad combination. Add in the fact that they already watch TV and probably use computers at home or in school, and you realize they have enough screen time as it is. Is it wise to give them another device that they’ll be glued to for hours on end all day long? The longer you wait until you give them a phone, the better it may be for their health.

Phones Help Your Child Develop New Skills

It can be argued that a smartphone helps your child develop new skills. The simple act of using a smartphone immediately helps them learn more about technology. In a world where tech is becoming such a huge thing, then it pays when your kids learn about it from an early age. Plus, you have mobile games that can really play a big role in honing your child’s key skills. As you can see with the release of Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, and many other games like this, most mobile games are built around problem-solving. You have to come up with a solution to a problem to beat the other players in big strategy games. In puzzle games, you have to work out how to break the puzzle and win. There’s a lot your child can learn, and many skills they can develop, by owning a smartphone.

It Makes Them Anti-Social

You could say that giving your child a phone will make them anti-social. When they should be talking to you or joining in with family fun, they’re on their phone instead. This is a big problem for a lot of people in this day and age. Walk around any shopping center or coffee shop and see kids of all ages just staring at their phones instead of talking to each other. Nobody wants to have a child that doesn’t talk to them or pay any attention to what’s happening – it’s bad for them and you!

Phones Help Your Child Stay In Touch With Their Friends

This point kind of counters the last point in that your children might not be as antisocial as you think on their phones. While they may not be paying you much attention, they could be communicating with all their friends and organizing plans to go out and play. Here, you can argue that – without a phone – they wouldn’t be able to talk to their friends and could end up left out. All the other kids in their school are chatting away, and they’re left in the dark not knowing about plans, etc. By having a phone, they can be more social with their friends and not feel left out.

So, at what age should you buy your child their first phone? There’s not a right answer here; it’s purely opinion-based. Some parents are happy giving children phones when they’re 7 or 8 years old. Others won’t buy them one until they’re at least 12 or 13. I think the best age is possibly in-between both groups; so, at 10 or 11. Your children are at an age here where their friends are probably getting phones, and everyone is starting to be a little bit more independent. Instead of going out with their families, children are going out together to a movie or a park at this age. A phone helps them communicate, but they’re also young enough to still develop key skills, while not being too old so they’re left out.

33 COMMENTS

  1. My husband actually offered to buy our 7 year old a phone for Christmas…I had to say no to that in front of my son so I became the bad guy….Luckily he wanted Pokemon cards worse and was happy when I promised him a ton of them for Christmas.

  2. Very good arguments for and against, and I’d probably have to agree with the midway point of 10/11. That said, I’d still want rules and such in place (limited use, maximum screen time, etc) and at that age I’ll admit that if I were a parent I’d rather they had a basic mobile (flip phone type thing, no bells & whistles, no Facebook) so that it’s just for important contact and safety. x

  3. Good points on the purchase of cell phones for your kids. Parents have so much to consider on whether it will benefit the child or not. Some children do not have the maturity until teen years to handle the responsibility and social interaction but others can as young as eight. I would limit their SM experience and only grant privileges upon demonstrated wisdom. Great article as usual, Christy.

  4. Great article, Christy.
    My now adult kids had phones around same age and I did only have the house phone that time. I think, my daugter got her first mobile at 12 years with limited use, so I needed to fill up the account for her to use it as a mobile. My son was around same age, when he got his first mobile too. I made rules from beginning, how and when to use it and not. It was not allowed, while we were eating and I showed them by example, as my phone sometimes did ring in same time. I answered and told people to call back in an hour or so, so we could eat and enjoy our food and company, while we had our mutual dinner.
    They did learn, when it was good or not to use their mobile and I’m happy to see today, that they are able to put them away or not answer at all, while they are doing other things.

  5. This is great question Christy,

    in one hand we must to get to know them with new technologies, but on the other hand we should control them in their virtual world. Thank you

  6. I’m so glad I didn’t have to answer this question when my kids were growing up. My son and daughter are grappling with it with their oldest children (both just turned 9). They decided to give them a phone with only e-mail/text options on it for parents and grandparents only, and no calling yet. Seems like a good solution for the start….Plus, about once a day I get a “I love you!” message from each grandchild. How sweet is that???!!

  7. We’re struggling with this issue right now because our boys are reaching their teen years and a phone would be practical for them to have, but we worry about the other issues, too. I think we’re going to get them phones sooner than later. 🙂

  8. Great post!!! I believe middle school age is appropriate, which is 12-13. But like everything else with teens, I believe parents need to closely monitor the use of the phone as phones can work for you and also against you.

  9. Hi Christy:
    Excellent article and phones and I go back to the day it was a simple 3 number call. Cell phones were created in our minds. I can recall being one of the first with a heavy, bulky radio phone. At the time it was the latest in technology.

    I think if I had a concern it would be to wait until later in life, I often see the parents playing on their phones and basically ignoring their children. Little do people realize they are instilling some social skills into their young minds. Of course that is just me… lol

    Hugs from Alberta

  10. There are so many factors involved in the decision of if and when to allow your kids to have cell phones. You really laid out many of the pros and cons, Christy. For my family, the deciding factor was there were times when we as working parents needed our kids to have phones so we could keep in touch with them concerning after-school activities as they reached middle school and high school. The ability to call a child to let them know which parent was picking them up and find out when exactly we needed to be there was invaluable for their safety and our peace of mind.

  11. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about this one either. Childhood obesity is a serious problem and handing a child a smartphone isn’t helping that. A good thought-provoking article, Christy!

  12. Great post because this will be a neverending debate. Quite frankly, I sometimes wonder when adults should be given a phone! My son is 13 and he uses his phone to check his class assignments, his teachers actually advocate for having one to send emails to teachers. They said it’s quicker for them to receive emails. I was very reluctant on giving him a phone, but I had to realize it isn’t healthy to hinder his social skills. As well as, technological advancements he needs to be well aware of, and also to just have fun. I had to remember, I was a kid once and hopefully by teaching him to be responsible and monitor the usage, there won’t be too many negatives. 🙂

  13. My wife and I agreed that our kids should have their first phones around the age of 8 or 10. This age is responsible enough to know the value of such expensive gadgets not to mention that they will probably need it for school and socialization. But as much as possible, if only we could stretch it some more.

    Develop new skills? Technical skills is important since we are in that age, but skills can also be develop thru outdoor or other physical activities.

  14. Good post, tough question. I think it depends on various things, like maturity for one. There are several drawbacks to kids having phones. Look at some adults who have basically lost contact with the human race one on one. Kids should be interacting with their peers. Perhaps a phone with a set amount phone card to have for emergencies is good enough. School and friendships to interact, computer time at home later for social media. 🙂 x

  15. You make good points here, Christy. I have this internal debate all the time but Greg is now nearly 15 years old and really makes his own decisions now. I hope I have provided enough guidance to stand him good stead in making his life choices.

  16. All valid points Christy! Perhaps it’s time kids’ have phones when they start going out a lot with friends, to the mall and movies etc. What I’m saying is: it’s also a great way for parents to keep track, and for other safety concerns.

  17. Smart Phones release R F radiation
    (radio frequency waves) using a phone for 10
    minutes isn’t going to cause cancer, but as we
    see now people are increasingly entrained to
    these devices, so much so that many people
    cannot put them down, let alone turn them off.

    The longer a person is exposed to the radiation
    the more devastating the effects. The smaller
    the person the more radiation accumulates, and
    in children, the growing bones absorb more radiation
    than a grown adult. More studies are being published,
    there are physical effects, not to mention the mental/
    psychological effects of technology addiction/ withdrawal.

    In short, children should not have their own smartphones.

    It is always shocking seeing young children glued to
    these devices. Even in restaurants, children mirror
    the behaviors of adults, so it is always saddening to
    see four people sitting at a dinner table not interacting
    and each staring off into their own technology void.

    The smart phone is the new digital babysitter, it is sad
    that parents do not do the research for themselves
    and are putting their children in harms way for no reason.

    92% of Americans own cell phones, and just like big tobacco
    these corporations have no reason to tell their customers
    the truth about the dangers associated with their products,
    it is up to the consumer to do their own research. As always
    hindsight is 20/20, just as we now know about the effects of
    tobacco as a carcinogen, the effects of prolonged smartphone
    us will be as clear as day, as decades of phone radiation make
    themselves apparent in time as more research is published.

  18. My love’s son is in sixth grade and doesn’t have a phone yet, but he did get an iPad last year for Christmas, and now he’s glued to it a good deal of the time. Considering most people don’t use their phones for talking, I’d say the longer that one can put off giving their child a phone, the better.

  19. Great post and points, Christy! I’m so glad my kids are older now because this is a tough topic. They were were around 11 when they got their first phone, but they started with a flip phone. It was simply for phone calls. No smart phone until high school, which meant no social media, etc. There is too much creepy stuff on social media that young children don’t need access to.
    But cells are also beneficial for safety reasons where staying in contact with parents is good. The negative to them as I observe is many kids are plugged into their phones, less interaction with each other, lessening social skills, heads down way too much when walking around, therefore, not aware of their surroundings. For me, I seem to notice the negative more so than the positive. And then of course, the possibility of causing cancer. It’s a difficult question, no doubt…

  20. Thank you for this post!! This is such a scary subject for me. For one, it makes me feel old to even think about how much times have changed! I didn’t have my own phone till I was nearly twenty.. For two, I can only imagine how much MORE time will change and to give my kids that kind of access to technology at such a young age really just makes me nauseous! My nephew at age 10 called me a few months ago to give me his very own cell phone number and when I made the comment of him being too young he said, “Whatever, it’s not the ninety’s anymore.” LOL talk about a kick to the age ego!

  21. I would prefer to give my child a phone if their school is far from home so we can communicate immediately when he need something or something is so urgent.

  22. Thanks for your contribution christy! Another important point for parents are the ads there childs have to watch at the mobile games. There should be another way to help developers and gamers to support their passions: check out adfreepanda and leave some comments

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