• What age should kids get a phone?

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    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…

    This post is brought to you by AT&T

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

  • 16 comments

    1. Sophie said… July 13, 2017 8:55 pm

      Hi,

      I live in Sydney, Australia and I don’t have a mobile phone nor do my kids.

      Our family has made a conscious decision to be as present as possible. My oldest is 17 and she has managed to navigate the potential ‘social isolation’ of high school without a phone by making enduring friendships with people who love and respect her. They care enough about her to email or use the land line.

      Similarly, I’m in my forties and my social life hasn’t suffered at all. Have I missed out on ‘group invite’ events? No doubt. Do I care? Not at all. Life is so busy for everyone that I choose how and with whom I spend my time. There’s nothing more rude and frustrating than catching up with a friend who constantly checks/uses their phone. Be in the moment, people!

      I don’t want to sound evangelical or anything – this decision works for our family. It’s not for everyone.

      Also, with respect to trusting our kids to make their way in this scary world, I am SO proud of my daughter for making good choices and learning to solve problems. And I’m proud of myself for letting her go – for letting her make her way in the world without my constant supervision. From age 11 she has taken a public bus and a train to school.

      I hate to say it, but if you need to track and control your child’s every movement, then they’re definitely not ready for the responsibility of independence least of all a mobile phone!

    2. U Covington said… July 8, 2017 7:33 am

      Thanks so much for writing this article! As a teacher who is constantly asked this same question, I’m happy to share your article with families!

    3. Teresa said… July 3, 2017 2:57 pm

      I let my kids get phones when they were 12. I also use Netsanity on their phones so I can block apps I don’t want them to get/use (which is a lot!!!) and can also freeze the screen if I want. I can also use the time blocker to block usage of the phone during certain hours. I think another topic along these same lines is phones in rooms at night. I have never let my kids (ages 18, 15 and 12) have their phones in their rooms at night. They have to be pugged in in the hallway where I can see them. I also have a time blocker on their phones at night as well. I think it is extremely important kids have space away from phones and know it is time to rest/sleep.

      My daughter starts college this fall and once she was 18 I took the Netsanity off her phone. I figure if she isn’t responsible by now, there is not much more I can do! 🙂

      • Liz Stanley said… July 5, 2017 11:23 am

        Good tips! I like the idea of plugging the phones in the hallway as well.

    4. Erica said… June 30, 2017 11:07 am

      I know this is post is sponsored, but in addition to the phone you can get a tracking device for $20 on amazon. My neighbor has one for her son who’s in first grade. He really wanted to ride the bus and she didn’t want to give him a phone. She has the tracker in the pocket of his backpack and she knows where he is at any given time on the route (assuming he didn’t leave his bag behind). He’s responsible for charging it every night and dropping it in his bag. At 5, he only forgot twice the entire school year. It’s was extremely helpful for her not having to wait for extended periods of time at the bus stop in the afternoons and even when the bus was in an accident during the early morning after he boarded, she was able to pinpoint the exact accident location and pick him up.

    5. Kate said… June 30, 2017 1:52 am

      Such a tricky question…real balance of concern for safety and not getting them addicted

    6. Danielle said… June 29, 2017 10:41 pm

      Get those Tile things! Someone at Apple suggested them and I was like, that’s right! I thought of it before, but had forgotten. With one of those things in their bag or on their bag or shoe or whatnot, you can track them!

      • Liz Stanley said… June 30, 2017 10:44 am

        Oh, I haven’t heard of those- what are they?

    7. Nikki said… June 29, 2017 7:43 am

      Timely for us as well- we live right next to the school so our 10 year old walks herself to and from school every day. We also let her ride her bike around the neighbourhood. I didn’t want to get her a phone so we settled on an LG Gizmo Gadget (watch). It has GPS features that let us see where she is, let’s her check in with us, let’s her send us texts from a list of pre-programmed messages and and let’s her make phone calls to only those in her contact list. We control pretty much everything through an easy app.

      It allows us to give her some freedom while still knowing exactly where she is!

      • Liz Stanley said… June 29, 2017 4:38 pm

        Yes, familiar with that one. Henry has a friend who has it! That’s another good option that isn’t really a phone yet.

    8. Randi said… June 29, 2017 6:41 am

      This is a timely post for me. My daughter is 11 (she has no phone or device of her own). Most of her friends recived phones around their 10th birthdays, sometime around the end of 4th grade. As a fifth grader, she was one of the only kids in her school without a phone or a device to text from. (We have a joke that my kids are ‘nobody’ because everybody has a phone/device.) She was often left out of after school plans/conversations because she had no way to text- the kids don’t make phone calls ( to a land line) or talk on the phone often.

      We’ve said she could get a phone in 6th grade. I have mixed feelings– I want her to be able to be part of her social group, but. I don’t want her to be glued to the phone. Plus, all the scary sides of being socially connected to friends. Overall, I think it’s inevitable– we’ll just have to start slow and make sure the phone stays in common areas of the house.

      • Liz Stanley said… June 29, 2017 4:39 pm

        I agree, it’s a lot of mixed feelings- lots of pros and cons!

      • teresa said… July 5, 2017 10:56 am

        This totally resonates. With our oldest, we waited until 8th grade to give her a phone because of all the fears you listed. In retrospect, I realize how socially isolating that was for her in 6th and 7th grades especially during the summer.

        Our new plan for the younger siblings is to get them a phone when they get into middle school and disable all features except phone, messaging, photos, and music. I strongly agree that social media should wait until high school, but the reality is that alot of kids are doing it. Just because the social media apps restrict the age to 13 doesn’t mean they can’t get an account with fake information. Almost all 6th graders (11/ 12 yr olds) I know have an instagram account.

    9. Tysha said… June 29, 2017 6:15 am

      I would never even consider a phone (of any kind) for a child in elementary school – and I will probably be the “mean parent” who probably doesn’t allow it in middle school, either. The evidence of the negative FAR outweighs the positive for the younger crowd. At my children’s school, if they are tardy or don’t show up, they send out an automated text or email of a tardy or absence. Might your school consider adopting a practice like that? Or you communicate with a teacher and she contacts you if he is tardy or doesn’t show up? I am definitely in favor of holding off as long as possible. My kids are 9, 7, 5, 3, and 5 months and I want to protect and honor their childhood as long as I can – even if it’s unpopular. So far, none of them have asked (thank goodness!) but when they do, I have good reasons for them. Much like how we don’t own a tv or gaming station. I guess we are just a bit old fashioned, and luckily they are understanding and ok about that aspect of our family culture.

      • Liz Stanley said… June 29, 2017 4:40 pm

        We do get a call if our child isn’t there, but usually later that day and sometimes it’s not until the next day so it doesn’t help much!

    10. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog said… June 29, 2017 5:36 am

      This is a great post – it’s a question I always wonder about!

      Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
      http://charmainenyw.com

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