Is your child ready for a mobile phone? 3 considerations before you get one

two boys on their mobile phones

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Has your kid been asking for a phone lately?

Most people have a smartphone these days. It’s a helpful way to talk to others and find out things. It can also help keep your child safe when they start school. But, like any tool, it can be bad if used too much. For example, kids can become addicted to smartphones. Using them too much can cause health or psychological problems (How smartphones are making kids unhappy). It can also show them things that are not good like cyberbullying, or online scams.

When deciding whether to give your child a phone, there are important things to consider. It can be a difficult decision to make.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Before giving your child a phone, ask yourself if they are responsible enough. Do they often lose things or need reminders to do their tasks? If yes, they might not be ready for a phone. Having a phone is a big responsibility, and they need to know how to take care of it and protect their data.
  2. Does your child know how to use technology safely? They should be aware of online dangers like cyberbullying and scams. They should also know not to share personal information or post inappropriate content. What they share online can affect their future.
  3. Is your child socially well-adjusted? If not, a phone can make things worse. They might become anti-social and retreat into their own virtual world. They need to be mature enough to understand that not everything they read online is true and avoid scams. They should also be able to recognize false information and propaganda.

If you decide to get your child a phone:

  1. Set some rules

    For example:

    • Your child should only use their phone after finishing homework and chores.
    • They should not use it during class, dinner time, church, or important gatherings.
    • Try a test period of three months to see how it goes.
    • If your child breaks any of the rules, they should know that the phone will be taken away for a while.
  2. Pick a phone that doesn’t have internet

    Younger kids might not need a phone with internet. They can still call and text without it. Find the best mobile plan for you. Some plans give you a free phone, but you might have to pay a lot each month. If you already have a phone on a plan, ask your provider if they can give you a phone for free or at a lower price. Family plans usually have discounts for extra lines. You can look online or ask at stores that sell electronics.

  3. Know their password

    Tell your child that you will be checking their phone use. This can help them avoid risky online behavior. Check your child’s texts, posts, and stored photos from time to time. Explain that you respect their privacy but keeping them safe is more important. You can gradually allow them to use their phone more independently when you see that they are responsible with it.

Article updated May 2, 2023.
Sources: When should you get your kid a phone? Danielle Cohen,; Is your teen or tween ready for their first cell phone? Tips for parents and kids, Nadine, Save Money in Winnipeg; An age-by-age guide to kids and smartphones, Stacey Stein, Today’s Parent; How smartphones are making kids unhappy, Audie Cornish, NPR. All retrieved April 26, 2018.

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