When should my children get a smartphone?

Estimated read time: 3 minutes



It’s a question that comes up for many parents: At what age should my child get a smartphone?

And the answer can widely depend on the goal of the smartphone.

  • Is it for entertainment purposes only?
  • Is it used as a communication device between family members?
  • Does it help us know where our children are through the device’s GPS?

All those things are worth considering, and that includes looking at the current situation. Are the children in sports? Do they walk to school and back home?

Let’s look at how children and families can use smartphones when children have them.

Safety

A definite safety feature is the GPS/Find my iPhone functionality. Ensure that the child’s phone is sharing its location indefinitely with the parent’s phone, and you can see where the child is.

Sometimes this functionality seems to struggle when one of the phones doesn’t have the latest update. So make sure automatic updates are turned on.

When a child has a phone, it’s also easier to check in via text or even a phone call. Or for them to call the parent when necessary. No need to stop by some stranger’s home to use the phone.

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Communication

Some people don’t like when family members text each other while in the same home. I get it to an extent, but texting each other when you aren’t near each other is much less headache-inducing than screaming across the rooms or floors.

Granted, my younger daughter often uses voice dictation, and you can hear it in the other room when she’s voice dictating a text to me from the other room.

Also, you can create groups of all family members or specific ones to have group conversations. Again, much easier than having to yell across the house or rounding everyone up.

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Entertainment

The struggles over what to watch on the household TV aren’t usually a thing when everyone has their own device. While not everything – like satellite TV – can be streamed to smartphones, many services can. So it’s easy for everyone to watch whatever they want on their own devices while still sitting near each other.

I would recommend headphones, however.

One concern might be that parents don’t want their children to watch certain things on smartphones. On Apple devices, that’s easy enough to control and restrict through Screen Time. For example, you can limit the time certain apps can be used. You can also block specific websites in Safari.

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Smartphone alternatives for children

There are also options, but what smartphone alternatives you consider depends on the goal. For example, if the goal is entertainment, consider a Fire HD tablet, which is cheaper than your typical smartphone.

A GPS watch might also do the trick if the goal is security and knowing where the child is. And text messages can also be sent with some models – including the Apple Watch with GPS and Cellular.

Be aware that some of these, including the Apple Watch, require subscriptions to get them to work correctly.


But what’s the right age? Again, it depends on what’s happening in a family’s lives and whether a child can use a smartphone. Can they even text, for example? Or will they take it with them? In our cases, my older daughter got her first smartphone around age 9, while the younger one got hers around age 7.

Those ages and times made sense in their case.



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