Cell Phones for Kids Come with a Host of Concerns—How Can Parents Make a Wise Decision?

About 97% of Americans have a cellphone. That’s an incredible number when you really think about it. You may not have had one growing up, but now you probably can’t imagine your life without your phone by your side.

Today’s kids are growing up in a culture already immersed with technology—including smartphones. You’ve probably seen children with a phone in their hands at a very young age and found yourself wondering how young is too young.

Because kids are growing up in this cellphone-forward society, it’s likely they’ll ask for one of their own before long.

Maybe your child already has.

There’s no denying that there are plenty of perks to cell phone ownership, even for kids. However, they also come with a host of concerns. So, what can you do, as a parent, to make the best decision? Is your child ready for a cell phone? Let’s cover some practical tips you should keep in mind as you make that choice for yourself, your kids, and your family.

What’s the Best Age?

There’s no “perfect” age for a child to have a cell phone. As of now, pediatricians recommend that parents should wait until their children are around 13 years of age. However, you know your child better than anyone, and if you think they’re responsible enough for their own phone, it’s completely up to you.

So, what factors should you consider if you’re thinking about getting your child a phone at a younger age?

First, determine their readiness.

Have they shown signs of responsibility? Are they able to take care of something? Do they know the value of a phone?

Next, have a talk with them about why they really want a phone. If it’s just because their friends have one, it’s okay to hold off for a while. However, if they have specific reasons for wanting it, even if it’s just to play games, then you’ll know they have a basic understanding of what the phone can be used for, and they might be ready for it.

What Are the Benefits of Giving Your Child a Phone?

Many parents choose to let their young children have phones because of some of the perks. Phones can be used to stay connected. If your child is at school, at a friend’s house, or at an extracurricular activity, they’ll always have a way to reach you.

There’s also an endless amount of information available to them through a phone. They can use it for research, and it’s a fantastic way to promote independence and get them used to online safety practices.

What Are Some of the Risks?

Some of the biggest concerns over kids having cell phones include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Decreased sleep
  • Distractability

Without boundaries and rules in place, your child could also post the wrong things on social media, or give out sensitive information that could put them (or your whole family) in jeopardy.

As your kids get familiar with how to search for things online, the phone could also turn from a research tool to something incredibly dangerous. Kids are going to get exposed to the dangers of the Internet at some point. However, as a parent, it’s important to do what you can to protect them from those risks for as long as possible.

What Should You Do?

If you want to get your child a cell phone, the best thing you can do is have several talks with them about it beforehand.

Create rules and boundaries. Install parental controls and website/app blockers on the phone. Most importantly, check their phone multiple times a week to see what they’ve been doing and who they’ve been interacting with.

By having some precautions in place, you can make cell phone use safer for your kids. Ultimately, though, it’s up to you to decide when the time is right.