Here’s something crazy to think about: According to Tech Crunch, the average kid gets a smartphone at age 10.3. None of Henry’s 9 yr old friends have phones yet, but that doesn’t stop him from asking about when he’ll get a phone all. the. time. If you have elementary school aged kids, has this come up for you yet too? I can’t relate to it at all, I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in my 20s. As a teenager, the closest thing I had to a cell phone was a car phone in my friend’s parent’s car she drove to school. So I’m feeling a little clueless as to when is the right time for our kids to get phones. The research is mixed, some experts say age 12, some say 14 (Bill Gates agrees on 14). Many say the later the better. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about around kids and phones…
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Knowing where they are. Henry’s starting to get really independent and it’s really fun to watch. Starting this coming year, Henry will probably start walking to school on his own. We live on a dead end street next to a park where the school is so we’re feeling pretty comfortable with the idea. At least, with him walking home. We’re expecting him at a certain time, so we know when he arrives and what time to start to worry. Walking to school still makes me a little nervous. He’s a very responsible and mature kid for his age, but without him having a phone or some other kind of device, I have no way of knowing if he made it there okay- until he comes home from school several hours later. That whole thing is a little nerve wracking for me! A phone would totally fix that. And that’s a huge part of it. I might be more scared of an independent kid without a phone.
When the time comes, something like AT&T GoPhone is an attractive option we’ll consider. No annual contract, lots of flexibility, prepaid plan to fit your budget that you can change at any time depending on your needs. They offer really affordable plans from as low as $25 a month, when you sign up for AutoPay. With a family plan, called Multi-Line Discount, each member gets their own data so there’s no sharing and you save more with each line you add.
Overuse. Really, are we going to assume our kids have more control than us? If I can’t go a few hours without looking at my phone at 37, what makes me think a 12 yr old will be any better? There is so much information out there about how addicted our society is to our smart phones, so I’m totally terrified to hand that right down to my kids. Also, there’s this: 50 percent of the children admit that they’re addicted to their smartphones. So we know it’s a big problem. And are their brains even ready for something we adults are already all addicted to? The prefrontal cortex, the part of their brain that controls impluse, isn’t even fully developed until their mid 20s.
Admittedly, I’m totally scared of kids and social media. There are so many things here I think about (and worry about). The online world is a whole other life that requires upkeep, relationship management, new and different social rules, and 24-7 interaction. Social media platforms generally do not allow use by minors under the age of 13 (luckily). Honestly I think being a teenager with one life to manage was hard enough. I can’t imagine managing those two worlds as a teenager.
Wanting them to be able to connect in real life first. Seems obvious, but some kids take some time to figure this out, and I think it’s super important. A few helpful ideas here on how. Which leads us to…
Teaching responsibility. Like any big step, getting a phone would be a great lesson in responsibility. And there would be so many great lessons we could teach. I especially love this contract a family gave to their teen getting a phone. Things like the parents always knowing the password, phone curtesy and manners (good lessons for everyone!) like “Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person”. Collecting the phones before bed is another great idea.
So yeah, I’m torn about the right age for Henry to get a phone. What do you think about kids and phones? If you have kids, do you have any rules yet in your family on phones and phone usage?
This post is brought to you by AT&T. The AT&T GoPhone booth will be at the X-Games July 13-17th. Stop by the booth for fun activities, prizes and to get some charge on your mobile device. Meanwhile, visit AT&T and see how your life can be made easier with a new GoPhone plan.