Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. Here are some interesting thoughts from the organisation regarding the question of the right age to give children their first smartphone. It is really up to the parents. Age isn’t as important as a child’s maturity level, ability to follow home (and their school’s) rules and their sense of responsibility. But when you hand your children smartphones, you’re giving them a powerful communication and media production tool. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their children are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully.
If you think your child’s technological ability is greater than their ability to use it wisely, parents should pay attention to the gap. You may need to say, “No, not yet.” However, here are some questions to consider of your children prior to making the decision to provide a phone:
- Do they show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house? Do they show up when they say they will?
- Do they tend to lose things, such as backpacks or homework folders? If so, expect they might lose an (expensive!) phone, too.
- Do they need to be in touch for safety reasons?
- Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
- Do you think they’ll use smartphones responsibly — for example, are they aware of what a digital footprint is?
- Can they adhere to limits you set for other screen time activities?
- Will they use text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?
Monitoring your child’s smartphone without seeming intrusive, is important, so we encourage parents to be honest about what you’re doing and why. Explain that your rules are for their safety and protection. Parents are encouraged to build honest and open communication with their children in regards to technology use.