Your child’s first phone – what’s the right age?

It’s the new “conversation” parents have with their children: when to get a phone.

It’s not an easy decision. There are all sorts of reasons why young people should have a phone. Phones help kids socialize, interact with friends and make new friends. They teach children skills they’ll need in our high-tech world. A phone is an essential way for kids to stay in touch with their parents and ask for a ride when they need one. And no parents want their child to be “that kid” who gets teased at school for not having a phone.

On the other hand, phones come with issues. Screentime addiction can be a problem. According to the CDC, children 8-10 now spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of a screen using entertainment media. Children 11-14 spend a whopping 9 hours a day watching a screen.

And all that time screentime has an impact. Research shows links between excessive screentime and childhood obesity, depression, behavioral problems and anxiety. It can affect young people’s sleep and their performance in the classroom. Low self-esteem is another possible consequence. When kids are always on social media, always seeing others who look beautiful, go interesting places and have cool stuff, they naturally start to think their own lives are less happy.

In May of this year, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in an advisory that social media poses a “meaningful risk of harm to children” and asked social media companies to “take immediate action to mitigate unintended negative effects.” A recent study of 30,000 young adults shows a strong link between the age at which kids get their first smartphone and the status of their mental health.

Clearly, this is not a decision to be made lightly.

When is the right time for a phone?

If you’re the parent of a child who doesn’t yet have a phone, you’re likely asking yourself that question now. The school year is coming up, you’re shopping for supplies. Should a new phone be on your list?

We all make decisions based on what others are doing. So let’s start there. Around 42% of children have a phone by the age of 10 and 91% by the age of 14.

But let’s look a little deeper. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the parents who know technology best—Silicon Valley parents—lean toward waiting for a first phone.

Melinda Gates: “Parents should decide for themselves what works for their family but I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my children’s pockets. Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning how to be kind, coping with feelings of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a 2018 interview with the New York Times that his 11-year-old son didn’t have a phone.

So what about your kids? Are they ready for a phone? The general consensus is that kids should get a phone when they’re 10-14 years old, with the exact age depending on your child’s developmental readiness. Consider level of maturity, ability to follow rules at home and at school, and degree of responsibility, as well as your family’s needs.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews media and technology with the goal of providing information on their suitability for children, recommends that parents ask these questions.

  • Do your kids show a sense of responsibility, like letting you know when they leave the house? Do they show up when they say they will?
  • Do your kids tend to lose things like backpacks or homework? If they do, expect that they might lose their phone too.
  • Do your kids 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 a phone responsibly—for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
  • Can they stick to limits you set for when, where and how long they can use the phone?
  • Will they use text, photo and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?

When you’re ready, consider CREDO Mobile.

Children learn a lot from their phones. They can also learn from their phone company—if it’s a company like CREDO Mobile. That’s because we’re more than a phone company. We’re a community of people who are dedicated to making the future better.

We share your values. And we work hard every day for causes like climate justice, economic justice and civil rights. Since 1985, we’ve donated over $94 million to groups like the ACLU, Sunrise Movement, Color of Change, March for Our Lives, the LGBTQ Task Force and Planned Parenthood.

With CREDO Mobile, kids don’t just get a phone, they get a voice, because every CREDO member is a supporter of causes that are vital to all young people.

We have a variety of affordable plans to suit all people. We have 1GB to unlimited-data plans, all with unlimited talk and text. Customers who don’t use a lot of data can save with our metered plans, which switch automatically to Wi-Fi at home.

Ready to join? Click here to learn more.