When Should Your Child Get a Phone?

Ask the Expert, Featured Article, Growth and Development, Health and Safety
Boy texting with Cell Phone3

We spoke to Common Sense Media parenting editor Caroline Knorr to find out how to know when kids are ready for their first cellphone. Here’s what she had to say:

DailyParent.com: What should parents know when looking into if their child is ready for a phone or not? What age should a child get their first phone?

Caroline Knorr: Age isn’t as important as responsibility and maturity. Most phones—even basic models—are small, handheld computers with features that put a lot of power in young hands. Kids can take photos, text, watch YouTube, play games, download music … oh, and make phone calls!

When trying to decide if your child should have a mobile phone, consider:

  • Does he or she need to be in touch with you for safety reasons?
  • Would he or she adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Would he or she use the text, photo and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?

DP.com: Are there some models of phones and plans you would recommend parents consider? What types of things should parents be aware of before they get their child a phone?

CK: You don’t need to buy the latest and greatest smartphone! Sometimes, a basic phone that allows you to reach your child in an emergency is the better option to a phone that has full Internet access. I recommend starting with a bare-bones phone, and increasing access to more features incrementally, as your child proves he or she can handle the extra responsibility.

DP: What kinds of limits should be placed on a child’s phone use?

CK: Basic safety skills are essential for kids’ safety and privacy. Whether calling or texting, kids need to know to verify the caller or texter and to not respond to numbers they don’t know. Remind them to be respectful to both the people they’re talking and texting with as well as to the people around them!

If they’re using a smart phone, they need to be safe, responsible and respectful when it comes to using the camera, posting and downloading apps. They should ask permission before they take someone’s photo, and never take photos that would publicly embarrass others. When they download apps, games and music, they need to know they’re spending real money!

Cell phones give kids access to the world in ways you can’t predict. A little advanced preparation including rules, guidance and expectations can go a long way toward protecting your kids.

For more on everything you need to know before you buy your child a cell phone, visit Making Sense or check out the Common Sense Media guide to kids and cell phones.



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