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Survey Results: What Age Should You Give Your Kid a Phone?

In today’s fast-paced digital world, the question of when to give children their first cellphone has become a hot topic among parents. There are a lot of benefits and dangers that come with giving a phone to your child. It is a great tool to communicate with you when you’re not around. On the other hand, it can be difficult to monitor what they do on their cellphones and potentially expose them to dangerous things.

We decided to ask our large community of teen parents to share their decisions and experience when it comes to giving their kids phones. We received a large variety of responses from parents regarding at what age they gave their child a phone, as well as what their reasoning was for letting them have a phone. In this survey summary we will go over the most common age that parents give phones to their kids, the most common reasons, as well as some ways parents promote responsible cellphone use.

Average Age to Give Your Child a Phone

Based on our survey results, the average age for a parent to give their child a phone was 12.4 years old.  However, it is very important to note that there are various factors to take into consideration beyond just age. Many parents felt like giving their child a phone was a necessity once they began spending more time alone and needed a way to contact them. Regardless of the circumstances, the most common time for a child to get a phone is in middle school.

It is important to take into consideration that the vast majority of our audience resides in the United States and results may vary greatly in other regions of the world.

Most Common Reasons To Give Your Child a Cellphone

Safety

In our survey the most common reason that parents gave their kids phones was in case of emergency. One parent said “Once they were of age where we felt comfortable dropping off to practices/club meetings that’s when we decided it was important for them to have a cell to be able to reach us when needed.” This sentiment was shared by many parents. Leaving your kid alone is much less dangerous if they have a way to contact you. When kids get to an age where they’re dropped off at sports games and other after school activities alone, it is a good time to let them have a cellphone.

School

Surprisingly, many parents stated that cellphones were an important tool in their student’s schooling. Some responses mentioned that COVID virtual classes made the school curriculum more dependent on apps, and that it was a great help to have a smartphone. When explaining why they gave their son a phone in middle school, one parent said “[son’s] school uses a lot of apps in the classroom. So it is super helpful for him to have a phone!”

Earned Responsibility

Many parents chimed in and mentioned that they never personally gave their child a smartphone. Instead, their children were only allowed to have a smartphone when they could work a job to afford one and pay the phone bill themselves. This approach makes the child earn the privilege of having a phone, and respect their possessions more. When asked at what age their children got phones, one parent said “When they were old enough to get a job and pay the monthly bill. Since they wanted it so badly the first 3 got a job when they turned 14.”

Gift Giving

Numerous parents said that they gave their child a cellphone as a birthday or Christmas gift. Unsurprisingly, cellphones are one of the most asked-for presents among teens and tweens. Once their friends start getting phones, they begin to feel left out and ask their parents if they can have one as a present. Since a lot of parents feel like their child is responsible enough once they reach a certain age, it is pretty natural to give them during a birthday.

Dangers of Giving a Cellphone to a Child Who is Too Young

Exposure to Inappropriate Content

The top fear among parents is that their child could be watch inappropriate content on their smartphone devices. Smartphones can expose children to inappropriate content online if not monitored properly. Between internet browsing and social media, a child can easily be exposed to inappropriate content. TikTok’s algorithms are notorious for recommending inappropriate content to its users since many lie to overcome the age limit.

Cyberbullying Risk

Owning a phone increases the risk of a child being exposed to or participating in cyberbullying. Cellphones are a tool for communication. While there are many benefits to having increased communication, it can also lead to unmoderated cyberbullying.

Addiction and Screen Time

Excessive phone use can lead to addiction and affect the child’s physical and mental health due to increased screen time. Unlimited cellphone access could lead to a child developing an unhealthy relationship with technology. In our survey, many parents mentioned that their children developed an addiction to their phones and had a sense of entitlement regarding phone use.

Privacy and Safety Concerns

Children might not be fully aware of privacy settings and the risks of sharing personal information online. It is very common for strangers to talk to each other online, but is important to keep sensitive information private. We had a handful of parents mention that their children overshared information about themselves and their location online with their phones.

Safety and Monitoring

A lot of survey responses from parents mentioned limiting and monitoring cellphone use when they gave their child a phone. Several parents said that they gave their children cellphones for safety purposes and that they did not allow their children on social media apps until they were older. There are many ways that parents can monitor their children’s cellphone use and make sure they are being safe. It all starts with having a conversation with your child about some of the potential dangers that come with being online, and not to give our any private information to strangers. You can even draft a family contract about cellphone use. Here are some of the ways that parents can increase safety in their child’s cellphone use:

Parental control apps: These apps allow you to set screen time limits, filter content, track location, and monitor app usage.

Built-in safety features: Most smartphones have built-in parental controls that allow you to restrict app downloads, block websites, and set time limits. You can set it so that you must request approval from parents for new app downloads

Open communication apps: Consider family communication apps like FamilyWall or OurPact that encourage open dialogue and shared accountability.

Limiting Access: One of the best ways to combat phone addiction is to limit access. One common house rule is that teens cannot use their phones at night and must leave them charging outside their room. This is a great way of preventing them from staying up too late and impacting sleep.

Conclusion

Figuring out the best time to give your child a phone isn’t just about how old they are. It’s more about understanding if they are ready to handle the responsibility. Phones can be great for staying safe, learning new things, and keeping in touch with friends. They can also have downsides like seeing inappropriate content, dealing cyberbullies, or spending too much time staring at the screen. The key is to think about what makes sense for your child and your family. Talk to your child about how to use a phone wisely and set some rules.

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