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Why Kids Should Have Phones: Exploring the Ideal Age to Introduce Them

Reading time: 11 minutes
Written by
| Updated on
February 19, 2024
Reviewed by parenting expert
why kids should have phones: 3school-aged children happily gathered around a phone, sharing laughter as they engage with its content

What you’ll learn

Discover why kids should have phones and the challenges parents face. Learn when to introduce phones and provide effective guidance for safe cell phone use.

It has become increasingly common for kids of all ages to have phones – and if you think that kids are getting phones at a younger age, you are probably right. Around 25% of kids have phones by age 10 and 7 months, and more than 75% have phones by the time they’re 12 and a half. However, there is considerable controversy surrounding when kids should be given phones–especially smartphones and the internet access that goes along with them. Psychologists and parents regularly discuss the best timing for getting kids cell phones, and the guidelines may change on a regular basis. 

Understanding the challenges that cell phone use can present and taking steps to protect your children is critical. Before making a decision, it’s important to understand both why kids should not have phones and also the reasons why kids should have phones. However, you also want to make sure that you are introducing phones to your kids at the right time and providing effective guidance as your kids explore cell phone use. 

Why Kids Should Have Phones?

Kids’ cell phone use is an ongoing topic of contention. There are both benefits and drawbacks to offering a smartphone at a young age. Smartphones have the potential to offer considerable positive impact in many kids’ lives. However, parents must also carefully monitor and support children’s cell phone use in order to ensure that they use them as safely as possible. 

Parental Concerns About Cell Phone Use in Kids

Parents have a number of key concerns about how often kids use their phones and the dangers of unrestricted access to the internet, which may kids can gain through smartphones. 

Online Safety

Online safety is of key importance and priority to many parents. They want to ensure that their kids aren’t getting into trouble online, whether that  means sharing personal information with strangers or accessing content that could be potentially damaging to their mental health or overall stability. 

Excessive Screen Time

Often, kids spend way too much time attached to their phones–and that means increased amounts of screen time. Excessive screen time may result in depression, increased risk of obesity, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and even delayed social development for some kids. 

Cyberbullying

With constant phone access, kids also have the potential to be constantly connected to their peers. In some cases, that can have devastating results, including cases of cyberbullying. 64% of young adults note that they have suffered from cyberbullying at some point. Many schools have policies in place against cyberbullying, even when kids aren’t on school grounds; however, it can be difficult to monitor and control those behaviors in a safe and effective way. 

Two teenage girls sitting on a sofa, absorbed in their phones, scrolling through content.

Credits: Pexels

Reasons Why Kids Should Have Phones

While smartphones can have a number of potential dangers, they can also introduce considerable benefit to many kids’ lives. Take a look at these reasons why kids should have phones.

1. Academic Benefits

Maybe you are wondering why should kids have phones in school? When kids have smartphones and use them correctly, the world opens up to them. They have access to a wealth of information right there at their fingertips. Not only does that make it easier for them to dig deeper into content that interests or intrigues them, it can make it easier for them to get answers to questions about homework or other challenges they might be facing. There are a wealth of apps that can, for example, help kids figure out how to solve complicated math problems, or guide them through a difficult science concept. 

In addition, having a smartphone can provide kids with more access to academic and educational resources. Many teachers now use apps in the classroom. Others will offer kids access to programs, websites, and platforms that they can easily use through their smartphones, but that they might not be able to access another way, especially if they do not have a computer or tablet at home. 

2. Social Benefits

Today, kids are often isolated. They may not participate in after school activities or have the ability to connect with friends in the neighborhood the way their parents did when they were young. Smartphones, on the other hand, allow kids to connect with their peers no matter where they are. They can chat, share content, offer assistance to one another, and so much more, all from the convenience of apps. So, satisfying your child’s natural need for connection is another important argument when considering why kids should have phones.

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3. Improved Safety

While kids may face some dangers due to unrestricted internet access and an always-connected mentality, they can also appreciate a number of advantages. With a cell phone in hand, kids can easily summon assistance, whether they’re out with a friend and something goes wrong or they’re home alone without anyone to help them. Since around 73% of homes only use cellphones, with no attached landline, kids may need access to a cellphone that will allow them to summon help in the event of an emergency. 

In addition, smartphones have location tracking features that make it easier for parents to keep up with where their kids are. That means that if kids go out on their own with friends or even try to sneak out, it can be easier for parents to find them. Location tracking can also be beneficial in the event of a kidnapping or other emergency, since kids may be able to conceal their phones or call for help. 

4. Connection to Family

Smartphones not only provide kids with an ongoing connection to their friends, they can offer a closer connection to family. Many parents have little choice about leaving their kids at home alone, especially on days when they do not have school. With their phones in hand, however, kids can feel confidently connected to their parents throughout the day, no matter where it might take them. That sense of connection can also help parents feel more comfortable allowing their kids the independence they crave. That implies that maintaining family connection is one of the reasons why kids should have phones.

A boy sitting on a couch, focused on playing with his phone.

Addressing Concerns: Parental Controls and Guidelines

While there are certainly concerns surrounding smartphone use, there are things parents can do to mitigate those concerns and improve their ability to monitor and control kids’ phone usage. 

Setting Parental Controls

Many phones will come with parental controls options that will allow parents to control the content their kids can view, set the hours kids can spend on the phone, and more. Setting effective parental controls can go a long way toward ensuring that kids aren’t accessing dangerous content on the internet. Those controls can change based on kids’ age and maturity; however, even in their teens, kids may need ongoing support to help them use their phones correctly. 

Monitoring Usage

In addition to setting clear parental controls, parents should carefully monitor how their kids are using their phones: when they’re using them, what platforms they’re using, who they’re talking to, and more. By keeping an eye on kids’ cell phone use and overseeing it regularly, parents can help keep their kids safer. Checking in on kids’ conversations will also help ensure that they aren’t engaged in either side of cyberbullying or sharing private information with strangers online who could pose a danger to them. 

Creating Healthy Habits

Parents can provide encouragement and boundaries that make it easier to limit cell phone use and encourage healthy interactions with those devices. 

  • Try keeping smartphones out of the bedroom after bedtime, when kids won’t be supervised and need to be sleeping.
  • Set limits on how often kids can use certain apps. 
  • Encourage kids to participate in offline activities. That may include outside time as well as time spent with friends. Parents can also encourage engagement in extracurricular activities. 

In addition to setting boundaries around cell phone use, parents can model those good behaviors. When parents put their phones down and engage with their kids, their kids are more likely to, in turn, utilize those healthier behaviors. 

Educating Kids

As soon as kids get their first smartphone, it’s important for parents to start the education process. An effective education will not only set clear boundaries around cell phone use, but share information about the possible dangers kids may face. Parents should provide age-appropriate education about pornography, sex trafficking, kidnapping, grooming, cyberbullying, and the other challenges kids can face online. 

Two school-aged boys sitting side by side, each engrossed in their own smartphone.

At what age should a kid get a phone?

Research varies on the best time to purchase a smartphone for a child. Some experts recommend waiting until the child is in at least eighth grade. Others suggest introducing a phone between 10 and 14. Still others suggest that early technology interaction and adoption can prove incredibly beneficial for kids, since they are learning how to use the technology that they will likely interact with for the rest of their lives. 

Deciding at what age should a kid get a phone is often individual to parents and kids. Focusing on the child’s overall maturity level and responsibility can help parents make the decision that is best for their children. Other factors to consider may include:

  • How prepared parents are to facilitate healthy smartphone use and interaction.
  • Whether the child is involved in extracurricular activities or sports that may require time spent away from the parent or introduce the need for more communication.
  • Whether there is a home line children can use for communication. 
  • How well children are able to socialize with their friends and peers. 
  • Whether friends and peers have smartphones and use them to communicate.  

Choosing the right time for cell phone introduction – and ensuring that it is done correctly – is increasingly crucial, as now, more than ever, children are using their cell phones as a healthy part of ongoing socialization. 

Early Age Introduction: The Pros and Cons

Introducing cell phones at an early age can have a number of potential benefits, especially when it comes to education. 

  • Kids can learn how to use the technology that they will be using for the rest of their lives. 
  • Kids will have greater access to educational apps, platforms, and information. 
  • Early introduction can help kids feel more confident with the technology. 
  • By introducing cell phones early, kids can have more social interaction with peers. 

While there can be some drawbacks, including decreased awareness of potential dangers and greater risk of cyberbullying, parents who carefully control and monitor kids’ smartphone use can avoid some of those challenges. 

Delayed Introduction: Pros and Cons

Some parents may choose to wait until a later age, when students have better emotional maturity, to introduce a smartphone. That can mean:

  • Students have better control over their own smartphone use.
  • Decreased exposure to cyberbullying, which can improve mental health and prevent social problems. 
  • Students are better prepared for the dangers they may face and can better mitigate them on their own, without the need for as much parental oversight.

Waiting to introduce smartphones can introduce some social disadvantages, since students are less likely to be able to communicate with their peers. However, parents can encourage in-person social interaction or provide other ways for kids to connect. 

Expert Opinions: What Pediatricians and Psychologists Say

On average, doctors and psychologists recommend waiting to introduce a smartphone until kids are between 12 and 14: sometime in the middle school years. They argue that before that point, kids aren’t fully prepared for the many challenges they may face online. Excessive screen time can also cause a number of emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and more.  A flip phone or strict restrictions, including a phone selected just for kids, can allow parents to introduce a smartphone earlier. 

👉 Excessive screen time can also lead to aggressive behavior in little kids. Read this article about why kids hit themselves and how you can help them stop.

Social Media and Kids: Navigating the Challenges

Social media offers a number of potential challenges for kids. It can lead to:

Furthermore, teens who use social media are more likely to compare themselves to others, and may have decreased overall wellbeing due to those comparisons. Children and teens may have a harder time recognizing that people post the best of themselves on social media, and compare those best-of snapshots to their everyday lives. Social media does allow for a greater degree of socialization and a feeling of connection that goes beyond the platform; however, it can be particularly dangerous for kids and young teens.

Introducing Social Media Responsibly

Introducing social media responsibly is a key part of ensuring that kids are able to navigate those challenges as effectively as possible. That may include:

  • Waiting until kids are older to allow social media use (note: the average minimum platform age is 13);
  • Monitoring kids’ social media accounts;
  • Teaching kids about social media safety and how they can best protect themselves online.

Furthermore, parents should feel confident cutting off access to social media platforms when it poses a problem for kids, especially if they notice a decline in behavior or mental health. 

Conclusion: When is the Best Time to Introduce a Smartphone?

Smartphones for kids can have both benefits and drawbacks. The decision of when to introduce one is individual to every family and, in many cases, to every child. Carefully observing kids’ maturity levels and maintaining an open dialogue about phone usage are critical. Furthermore, parents should remain involved, keeping an eye on how their kids are interacting online and how they are using their phones.

Do you want to learn more about why kids should have phones and also at what age should a kid get a phone? Check out our free Screens Masterclass to learn more about kids and technology, including how you, as a parent, can monitor it more effectively. Also, if you have any questions about why kids should not have phones, Sophie, our AI assistant, is here to answer all your curiosities.

References:

Bozzola, E. (2022). The Use of Social Media in Children and Adolescents: Scoping Review on the Potential Risks. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(16), 9960. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19169960

Digitale, E. (2022, November 21). Age that kids acquire mobile phones not linked to well-being, says Stanford Medicine study. News Center. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2022/11/children-mobile-phone-age.html

Kelly, H. (2023, September 7). What age should you give a kid their first phone? Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/what-age-kid-phone/

Meranda, S. (2020, February 28). The Effect of Smartphones on Child Development | CUNE Online. Concordia University, Nebraska; Concordia University. https://www.cune.edu/academics/resource-articles/examining-effect-smartphones-child-development

Miller, C. (2016, February 25). When Should You Get Your Kid a Phone? Child Mind Institute; Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/when-should-you-get-your-kid-a-phone/

Muppalla, S. K., Vuppalapati, S., Pulliahgaru, A. R., & Sreenivasulu, H. (2023). Effects of Excessive Screen Time on Child Development: An Updated Review and Strategies for Management. Cureus, 15(6). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.40608

Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). (2023). Social Media Has Both Positive and Negative Impacts on Children and Adolescents. Www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov; US Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK594763/

Richards, D., Caldwell, P. H., & Go, H. (2015). Impact of social media on the health of children and young people. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 51(12), 1152–1157. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.13023

Who Still Has Landlines? (2023, August 16). POTs and PANs. https://potsandpansbyccg.com/2023/08/16/who-still-has-landlines

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