What age should kids get smartphones? Parenting Tips

One of the most asked questions I get from parents is at what age should my kids get smartphones? I do think that we have to look at both what age and also their maturity level.

One study says 95% of teens have a smartphone.

Another study by the Kaiser Foundation says:
Most teens — 85% of those aged 14 to 17 — have cell phones. So do 69% of 11-14-year-olds and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

These days, the average age when kids get their first smartphones is around 10 years old, according to Calgary-based parenting expert Judy Arnall, author of Parenting with Patience. But exposure to mobile devices often begins at a much younger age: It’s becoming increasingly common to see toddlers wielding smartphones in strollers and preschoolers zoned out in front of iPads at restaurants.

An age-by-age guide to kids and smartphones

1. All of our kids will get a phone at some point. As a parent, I would let this be known in all conversations with kids about when they will get a phone. Stop saying even jokingly that your kids will never get a phone. They all will at some point.
2. Tablets are basically phones. There is this large disconnect I hear from parents who say their kids will never get a phone but they have an iPad. It is the same. The only difference is the ability to call someone (which by the way students will rarely ever do).
3. I think that when we hear statistics of kids below Grade 6 getting smartphones we are dealing with fear-based parenting. They say a statement like “What if I need to get hold of them?” There is no need to get hold of them. You can call the school if you need to. If you really want to be able to call your kid then get them the cheapest off flip -phone or a phone that has no internet and just phone capabilities. There is no need for a kid in grade 4 to have a fully functioning smartphone.
4. Are they mature enough to have a smartphone? Seriously smartphones have access to everything in the world. All apps, social media, sexting abilities (sending naked photos), viewing pornography, ability to bully and be bullied. If you are going to get your kids a smartphone there is a ton of teaching around these conversations. We usually call this digital citizenship. Common Sense Media have some good online lessons on this. I will put the link in the description.
5. Sleep issues. Starting up late on their phones. No phones in bedrooms or turn off the internet at a certain time.
6. Texting and driving – need to talk about this when your kids start to drive. You can turn on “Do not disturb while driving” in the settings on an iPhone. This is good for all of us.
7. This is the new coming up age ritual. It is a big deal for kids. We might not think it is important for kids to have a phone but they might feel differently.
8. We need to realize as adults that kids communicate digitally today more than face to face. If your kid does not have a phone at a certain age they will be left out of conversations.
9. When your kids say in Grade 8 that they are the only one in their class without a cell phone. They might be right. Or one of just a few kids who do not.

Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft) says his kids waited until high school.

In our house we were a little earlier than that, My daughter bought (by herself) her first cell phone in the last few months of Grade 8. My son was a similar (grade 8 – beginning of the year) he waited until I upgraded my phone and took my older phone).
I would say somewhere around Grade 8 to me kids are old enough to take personal responsibility for having a smartphone.
I know people will have lots of differing thoughts on this. Love to hear what you do in your home.

Common Sense Media – https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship

Links to my book Parenting: Navigating Everything
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