Old Enough? The Age Your Child Should Get a Phone

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A widespread discussion in the parental community is–at what age should a child get a phone? While it’s debated almost as much as which way you put the toilet paper on the roll (it’s OVER, for the record), it’s not simply answered with one of two options.

The question is asked repetitively in online parenting groups, and I’ve often discussed it with friends.

But unfortunately, the answer is complicated because there isn’t a magic number.

When I see the posts in my online mom groups, as you can imagine, there is a variety of answers. The expressed opinions and commentary can be thought-provoking and even insightful at times. I’ve read responses as young as four and as old as 16 years old. These ages are the extremes and outside the average age of 12-13. The parents giving the four year old a phone had their reasoning, just as the parents of the 16 year old had theirs.

Old Enough? The Age Your Child Should Get a PhoneThe answer for you can be unclear, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult. The age your child should get a phone is when you, as the parent, feel it is appropriate. So the next question you’re asking is, when is it appropriate? Here are some important considerations that may help you make your decision:

What purpose does the phone serve for the child?

There can be multiple reasons, and you will need to gauge the necessity of your child having a phone. It could be as simple as convenience or personal safety. In all honesty, I wanted my son to have a phone when he was pretty young because he was always using mine to play games and watch YouTube videos–he was about five years old. (Apparently, little kids find it thrilling to watch other kids unwrap mystery toy packages).

Truth is, I wanted my phone back so I could use it. I was tempted to get my son a phone for my convenience, and numerous other positive reasons exist. When he was seven, I gave him one of my old phones and simply connected it via Wi-Fi. This was a win-win for both of us.

Maybe your child splits time between households. It may be convenient for the child to be able to call the other parent when spending time with the other. Having the option to be readily available to text or call can provide a sense of security. Understanding the genuine need is a good place to start when thinking about your child having their own phone.

Responsibility is another component when making the decision.

Is your child responsible enough to have a device? Maybe you think your child is atypically responsible for their age, or you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum. Something to ask yourself is–would this be an opportunity to have your child learn some accountability? I think if your child is on the younger side, say seven and under, then maybe it isn’t quite the right time if there isn’t a vital need. But, if your tween needs a lesson in responsibility, maybe your 11 or 12 year old is ready to try taking it on.

I also think about the world we live in–we are submerged in the age of technology and the internet.

I want to ensure safety when my child is using the internet, watching videos, and texting with friends. You’ll need to decide which apps they can and cannot use–and that’s a separate topic that I’ll save for another post. I want my kids to learn how to use the internet so that they’re enabled to manage this tech-driven world.

I’m of the opinion that since our world revolves around technology, the internet, and, let’s face it, social media, I want my child to learn how to use it appropriately. Sheltering my son from the inevitable will only make it more challenging for him and me. I utilize accessibility as a learning tool, and one of the most important lessons so far is that you can’t believe everything you see on the internet! While this seems obvious to many of us, it’s not to our kids.

Another consideration is the cost.

I have a hard time justifying spending over a thousand dollars for my own phone, so I’m certainly not buying my child an expensive one. More cost-effective devices may not be as fancy but still serve the same purpose. If it’s out of the budget, it may not be the right time. If you’ve decided your child should have a phone, look for BOGO deals and other offers that cell carriers may offer. Maybe you can get a phone while upgrading yours. While cost may not be the number one deciding factor, it does play a role in the overall decision. As I run out of gift ideas as the older my kids get, remember technology makes a good birthday or Christmas present.

Most importantly, having a phone is a privilege, not a right.

This is the number one rule in my household. I reserve the right to take it away or look through it at any time. Personally, I want my kids to be easily accessible. When they’re at a friend’s house or school, I like the ability to get a hold of them directly. I’d much rather send a quick text to let them know I’m running five minutes late than have to call someone else to have the message delivered. I also appreciate them being able to reach their friends from their phones instead of using mine. For me, convenience and safety were the deciding factors. And the lesson in responsibility was a natural added benefit.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-age-fits-all answer; otherwise, parents wouldn’t be asking the question so frequently. Surprise! Our children weren’t born with instructions. Like many other parenting challenges, it’s trial and error. You’ll need to assess your child and your own unique situation. Keep in mind that there is no hard rule that says you can’t try it. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t work out.

For me, age is removed from the equation. When I see parents asking the question, I suggest considering the factors I’ve gone over. It will help tremendously to make the right decision for you and your child.

If your child has a phone, how did you decide it was the right time?



The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.

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Vanessa is a recent New Mexico transplant (2021), by way of Phoenix, Arizona, and is busy learning and loving the Albuquerque life. She is a Christian, career-focused, work-from-home mom to son, Colby, and stepson, Brady, and is engaged to her fiancé, Kevin. She loves animals and has two dogs, Girl and Ziggy, and a fluffy cat, Alfie. Vanessa is an early riser who loves Mondays and routine, iced coffee, and the daily Wordle challenge. When she’s not working or driving the kids around, she enjoys exploring the city, taking in the stunning New Mexico nature, and fishing with her guys. Vanessa is passionate about sharing kindness, gratitude, and insights on parenting and family life. She’s indecisive and doesn’t have any specific niche but can talk a little about a lot. You can follow Vanessa on Instagram @vprueter.

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