When to Buy Your Child a Smartphone (Surprise!)



If I had a penny for every time my child pleaded for a smartphone, I would be a very rich woman! And I am not alone. Children everywhere are dreaming about owning these highly coveted handheld gadgets.

For our sons and daughters, smartphones are much more than a simple communication tool. In today’s world, cell phones are quickly becoming the main way people communicate. They are a lifeline to their peers- it allows them access to social media, texting, the Internet, and games in one convenient device.Unfortunately, the privilege of owning a smartphone comes with a hefty responsibility price tag that many of our kids can’t afford. It’s natural to want to give our children the items they desire, but we need to exercise caution before handing over an expensive tool that has unrestricted access to the Internet. As parents, we need to seriously analyze if a smartphone will be beneficial to our children.

Calling In The Experts: An Age-By-Age Guide

It is believed that children today are overexposed, using four to five times the amount of technology that experts and educators recommend. Those numbers are alarming, especially when we consider that children learn through play and social interaction. A good rule to follow is the 1-in-4 Rule which basically states that children earn one hour of media access for every four years of life.

Even though our youngest kids clamor for technology, it is vital we consider their age and maturity. To help break it down, we have compiled an easy to follow guide by ages:

  • Infants and toddlers- Experts strongly recommend no technology access, because children at this stage need face-to-face interaction and manipulation of the environment to develop language and thought processes.
  • Two to five– One hour of daily screen time is generally acceptable if the material is educational in nature. In fact, most children start navigating the world wide web around the three year mark.
  • Six to nine– This age group is able to independently use devices, but it is still recommended to strictly monitor their activity. Most children are not able to responsibly own and use their own smartphone.
  • Ten to twelve- Most children receive a cell phone around the age of 12. That being said, it is extremely important to know what a child is doing and offer them guidance as they become digital citizens.
  • Teenagers- 88 percent of teens own a cell phone, but they still need parental involvement and monitoring in the beginning.

Signs Your Child Is Ready To Own A Smartphone

A child’s age is a good guide, but not every 12-year-old is able to handle responsibility or make mature judgments at the same rate. The idea that one size fits all can’t apply to a child’s ability to own a cell phone. If you are considering giving your child a smartphone, ask yourself these 5 questions:

Does our family have rules when it comes to technology use?

Will my son or daughter follow the rules?

Is there a need for our child to own a smartphone, or is this merely a want?

Can my kid be respectful and responsible while using his or her phone (during class, while driving, or during family meals)?

Have I taught him or her social media etiquette?


If you didn’t hesitate to answer these questions with a resounding “yes”, then your child might be ready to own a smartphone. Even if you are hesitant, it’s important to begin an ongoing discussion about technology and issues a child might encounter online.

While unlimited text messages and social media access is wonderful, technology is ripe with cyberbullying, oversharing, sexting, online predators, and more which can irreparably harm a child. Parents need to challenge themselves to be involved and actively monitoring their child’s smartphone use.

At what age do you think a child is ready to own a smartphone?


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