When considering your child’s readiness for their first cell phone, there are many thoughts to consider. There are many types of cell phones available: is a smartphone the best choice for your child? Are there options other than smartphones available? How much parental control should be implemented? How will apps and social media play into your child’s phone use? The answers to many of these questions are often based on each individual child. Here are just a few topics to discuss together to assess how ready they are for a cell phone:
How does your child want or intend to use their phone? If it is simply for communication and your child is not ready for access to social media, gaming, or the internet, consider options such as a flip phone or a Gabb Phone or Watch.
What are some of the difficulties with a cell phone your child may experience? Does your child need your help with making decisions or need monitoring to ensure responsible use? If so, there are parental controls on smart devices that can help your child make safe choices.
How can your child connect with friends and family outside of using a cell phone? Community activities such as sports can be a good way for your child to interact with friends. Are there safe online options such as safe videogames or video chatting your child can use with their friends?
How do you plan to check in on your child’s device use and what boundaries will you set? Talk about safe internet use and being a good digital citizen. Consider setting up a Family Media Plan and discuss guidelines for phone use such as charging outside of the bedroom and screen-free time/activities at home.
If after discussing these items your child is not yet ready for a phone, it’s okay to postpone until your child is older. Keep in mind, the US Surgeon General Dr. Viveck Murthy made a statement earlier this year indicating children under the age of 13 years old are too young for social media use. It may be worth considering a phone with limitations on apps and the internet, and slowly expanding the usage of the device as your child shows more responsibility. As a parent, be sure to continue discussing and modeling healthy screen habits! Consider using the PhoneReady Questionnaire from the AAP and AT&T as well if you are looking for a quick and easy tool!
Radesky, J. (August 2, 2023). Your Child’s First Phone: Are They Ready? Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/cell-phones-whats-the-right-age-to-start.aspx
Gordon, A. & Brown, P. (January 29, 2023). Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media. CNN Health. https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/29/health/surgeon-general-social-media/index.html#:~:text=US%20Surgeon%20General%20Vivek%20Murthy,still%20%E2%80%9Cdeveloping%20their%20identity.%E2%80%9D