When Should Children Get Phones?

There will come a time when your child has to grow and reach the age where they want to explore and do things on their own. For many parents, this can be a daunting and worrying moment for them and if you’re reading this, there’s a high chance your child is turning to their early or late teens. This can be a period of time wherein they go through a lot of changes and as such, when children are nearing or in this age, they tend to commonly ask for one thing — their own cellphone. Most parents would give in just because their child has reached a certain age, but the question still stands that if the child asks for it, does that mean they really need one?

Things to consider when getting your child a phone

One of the most common arguments that children will give their parents when asking for their own phone would revolve around privacy. They are at a certain age now and they demand their own privacy. They can’t reach that if they don’t have their personal phones. As your child will grow into a teenager, he/she may demand to have their own boundaries and privacy with regards to their social and personal life. As a parent, it can be justified for you to want to teach them independence through this. But it doesn’t mean that when they enter the stage of self-independence, parents should also stop monitoring their children’s social activities and not keep in touch with them. Even if the child is looking to be independent, that doesn’t mean that they will do fine by themselves, especially when they are only starting to learn how to do so.

With this in mind, parental guidance is still highly advisable considering children are still new to this stage in their lives and may be prone to making the wrong decisions, especially with the influence of the internet. There are many things around them that can influence them and not for the better. They still need the guidance of their parents in order for them to become fully independent or at least learn step-by-step how to be. There are many choices parents have to make for their children and with giving them their own phones, we have compiled a list of some of the things parents should consider before settling on a final decision.

1. Child’s maturity

While many may think that age is the only determinant if the child is deserving their own phones, this isn’t always the case. Reaching a certain age does not guarantee that the child has also reached a level of maturity and social awareness. There can be instances wherein a thirteen-year-old is more socially aware than a seventeen-year-old. As such, thirteen-year-olds can also be less mature than their twelve-year-old counterparts. This means that depending on the situation, that twelve-year-old may be better at handling and managing their social life than those older than them.

This then brings us to the question: how does one determine if the child is “mature” enough to handle their social life? There are many ways for the child to show their maturity and that they are qualified to handle their own social life. However, we also have a list of questions you can ask yourself with regards to this:

• How is my children's self-discipline when it comes to their screen time?

Screen time can be for when they are watching TV or using the computer. This question would allow parents to have an idea of how much time their children may spend with their phones if they are given the device. If the child is disciplined when it comes to their screen time, such as knowing when their time for watching TV or using the computer is up, it’s a good indicator they will also not overuse their phone screen time.

• Are they aware that what they post on social media can be immortalized?

In essence, once something is posted on their social media, it can be immortalized even if they delete it at some point. Children have to be aware and mindful of what they post on their social media as these can be seen by their school, future university admission authorities, future employers, and colleagues. They have to understand that whatever they post, they have to be responsible for it.

• How good and fast are they in understanding social cues?

This is also important as part of them being socially aware. They have to be able to pick up social cues on the dot, or if not at least quickly enough. If they aren’t, they may constantly message their friends without understanding why they don’t reply.

• How well do they handle their money?

Okay, this may not relate to being given phones but trust me, it does. When a person gets a phone, it doesn’t mean that they’ll just be getting a phone. Phones are now more advanced and at the same time, they can be connected to one’s bank account. If a child isn’t very good at handling their finances, they may also have trouble with impulsively spending money on apps like gaming or messaging, and other online services that they can get with their phones.

• How frequently do they lose things?

It doesn’t matter if the phone is expensive or not. The child has the responsibility to look after the device because it is their own. Now, if a child has a habit of losing things, there may be a high chance this can also happen with their phones. It isn’t a matter of the cost of the object but how careful the child is when it comes to their belongings.

• Are they having trouble with their academics?

This is probably the most important question a parent should ask themselves when determining the qualification of a child to handle their social life. A child may be having trouble balancing their academics and social life. If this is the case, adding a phone to the mix will not be a good idea.

2. Child’s attention span

If the child is diagnosed with ADHD, he/she may get constantly distracted by the mental and emotional stimulation from excessive screen time. Having ADHD or Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder means that a child may have a difficult time concentrating on certain tasks, pay attention, and control their impulses. Experts say that children with ADHD who are also spending an excessive amount of time on their devices may possibly aggravate these symptoms. No matter the educational attainment, a child with ADHD may still suffer from the impending consequences of too much-prolonged screen time. As parents, you have to make sure they are aware and understand the risks as much as you are.

Children with ADHD symptoms may also find it hard to focus on tasks that they may find boring or are less reinforcing but are more important. This is why they may find it hard to sit through an important conversation or lecture. This just means that the more they use their phones, the more they will be encouraged to do more stimulating tasks and thus, making them more impulsive than they are.

3. Child’s attitude

We’ve already mentioned above how the child’s self-discipline also impacts their maturity. With this, a child’s attitude also determines whether they are more cooperative when it comes to the set of rules their parents may enforce or not. If they are more cooperative, then parents will not have trouble with reinforcing the rules set. However, you should also assure them that these rules will not cross their personal boundaries in any way. With this, the parent can be sure that their child will trust them and be honest with you.

Additionally, a child’s attitude may also determine how they are online. If a parent sees their child being impulsive as they always are, there’s also a greater chance for them being impulsive online such as in buying things online or posting anything without any forethought.

Helping with phone addiction

It’s also important to note that phone addiction is a rampant problem with children. As a parent, you would want to help your child avoid phone addiction but at the same time, you also don’t want to limit them for so long. For this, it’s important to help them understand why you are depriving them of their social activities. Confiscating their phones without any explanation is not the way to go. You have to explain to them calmly why you are doing it and the effects and benefits it will have for them. This way, the child may be more open and willing to participate in the process.

As such, you also have to keep your promises. If you’ve told your child that you’ll give them back their phones when they show significant improvement in their behavior and choices, then honor your deal. This way, the child will also not lose their trust in you. And as such, because of the changes you have seen, you can also be more assured they will be better and more responsible social media users.



Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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