Deciding when to get your child a smartphone has less to do with age and more to do with action on both the parent and child’s part, according to experts.
Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect, says the real question is not about the "right" age or about the phone itself, but about whether your child is developmentally ready to have “full access to the adult world,” and whether you’ve laid the groundwork to prepare them for healthy and responsible device use.
“You know your child is ready for a device when you’ve talked about responsible use and modeled the behavior on your own device,” says Kerry Gallagher, a digital learning specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, and director of K-12 education at ConnectSafely.org. “If you haven’t done any of this work, then it might make sense to wait another year.”
Getting Your Child a Smartphone: Ideas to Consider
Understand your family values. Reflect on what’s important to you as a family. Are you a family that values technology and its innovative and connective powers? Do you value teaching empathy and kindness? Encouraging creativity? Instilling a sense of responsibility in your child? Is eating dinner together as a family, uninterrupted, important to you? Determining your family values independently of the phone conversation can help shape how devices get used — not just for your child, but for you, too. “This is about the quality and kind of childhood you want them to have, as an individual and as a family,” Steiner-Adair says.