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Is your child ready for a phone

With our children growing up in an increasingly technological world, we are being presented with all sorts of tricky questions like, “How much screen time is too much?” and “Is my child too young to have their own smart phone?” John Cowan from The Parenting Place gives some tips on where to begin when thinking through these questions.

I wish I could give you a suggested timetable for giving your kids their first phones, but the big problem is that children vary so much in their maturity.  There are some eight-year olds who are more mature than I am and plenty of teenagers who repeatedly prove they haven’t got the sense to be trusted with a phonebook let alone a phone.

The median age in England for a first phone is eight years.  The reason for this is that parents think their children will be safer with one.  This might be true, but eight does strike me as being pretty young.

The best approach is to look at your own child and ask, “How mature are they?”  The way they handle other things will give you an indication of how they will probably handle a phone.  Do they handle money well?  Phones can run up bills, especially if they use data.  If your kid is good with money they will probably handle a phone responsibly.  If not, wait for a while.  Do they have good self-control?

Phones provide huge opportunities for kids to get up to mischief.  A child who is normally well behaved will probably be fine with a phone, but if they tend to get into trouble for other things, they probably aren’t ready for the responsibility of phone ownership.

Phones are valuable and can be broken or stolen, so ask yourself, "Is my child good with property?”  Yes? Then they will probably treat a phone well.  But if they often lose things and you frequently have to replace their shoes, sweaters and coats, you can probably expect to replace their phone, too.

This is a situation where you have to consult an expert. Is there an expert on your child?  Yes – you!

By all means check out what other parents do and what experts say, but you know your child best.

Checklist

  1. My child understands the cost of providing and using a phone and is willing to stay within the usage limits I set.
  2. My child is ready to take good care of a phone (i.e. isn’t likely to lose or break it).
  3. My child can manage their time and not use the phone for socialising or entertainment when there is schoolwork to be done.
  4. My child is willing to answer when I call and will call me when it’s time to check in.
  5. My child is willing to talk with me about the apps on their phone and how they’re being used.
  6. My child is able to use the phone politely and respects the feelings of the people in the room or at the other end of the conversation.
  7. My child is willing to share their location only with close, real-life friends and family.
  8. My child is ready to accept the consequences of breaking any family cell phone rules.