Now let me start of by saying this subject is a controversial one. Every child is different, and you know your child best. But, when our son asked for a cell phone at age seven, I searched for all the opinions I could find. I wanted to hear good experiences and bad experiences to help us make the decision. We ultimately decided to give him a phone on his 8th birthday. Yup, at age eight our son had a phone, and we don’t regret it yet. Now, will our daughter have one? No. Probably not.
You have a pretty responsible kid.
It all starts with having a kid who is mature enough to handle a phone. I say that our daughter probably won’t have one at age eight because she is not ready. Our son was mature, fairly responsible, and understood that it was a privilege to have a phone. He accepted it would have parental controls and he could only do certain things with it at first. We set the boundaries up front. He also was pretty good with keeping up with things. He has lost his ear pods way more than his phone. All in all, you kind of know if your kid is ready for a phone in your gut. Honestly.
You are not sure how to use parental controls.
If you give a phone early, please use parental controls. It is like, a must. We had no idea how to use parental controls when we started but, knew they needed to be used. You can set down time so they go to sleep, content filtering so they are not watching crazy stuff, and even limit their contacts. Best of all, it’s easy! Literally with a four-digit code, we can limit whatever we want, or we can totally lock up his phone when he is grounded. We don’t even have to take it away physically.
You don’t want them to be the kid who gets picked on.
I hear this one a lot and while it is somewhat true, it also is not fully a reality. When our son tried to convince us, he swore everyone had a phone. That is not true. It was about 50/50 with his friends and most of them were not allowed to take it to school. So yeah, you don’t want your kid to be the only one without a phone, but it is not likely they will be. Who knows maybe one day. I was not too worried about this piece but, we did teach our son not to rub it in other kids’ face that he had a phone. Like, please don’t be THAT kid.
There are times that you are not around your child.
Reality is, in today’s world, a phone is a safety device. This was probably our number one reason for giving our son a phone early. He had basketball practice, play dates, went deep in the woods with Grandpa, and went to school. Yes, we let him take his phone to school in his bookbag. We make sure he places it on silent each morning, it has a secret pocket in his bag, and he knows not to take it out unless it is an emergency. Him having a phone gives us a little piece of mind.
Fast forward to now, a friend introduced us to the Life 360 app. Best app ever. It is hooked to our son’s phone which allows him to alert us of an emergency with the push of a button, it can tell us if he gets in a car accident, it tells us when his battery is low, and it will even tell us when he steps foot in certain places. This helps us when he is out in the neighborhood with friends. We are able to track him as long as his phone is with him, and we all know he is not going anywhere without it.
It can be a great way to build trust.
We did not know this at the time but, giving our son a phone actually helped us build trust. He knew we trusted him to have a phone and be responsible, which made him feel better about being more open with us. Sure, we can search through his feeds and see what he is looking at with our parental controls. He knows that. But it got to the point where we didn’t have to anymore. When he is curious about things he comes and tells us and asks if he can search for it or he asks us about things that he does search to see if it is true. There has only been one time that I can think of where he broke a rule with his phone. We obviously had to lock it up for a bit after that and he learned a lesson.
Be careful with social media.
Access to social media doesn’t have to start when the phone starts. See parental controls above. This is one that we had on lock down for a while. Our son was not happy about it and begged for us to unlock certain apps but, we knew what early access to social media would mean. Kids lie about their ages and create accounts. They get sucked into it. Posting things they will regret, doing challenges, bullying, and seeing stuff that is not real. Their brains are not ready to intake all the opinions and fake stuff they see. That’s why they are not supposed to create accounts before a certain age. They have to be at a good age to decipher the bad from the good.
Hopefully this article gave you a few things to think about in your search for information. Most people told us not to give our child a phone at eight, but it ended up being the right choice for us. Do what you think is best for your child and your family.
Check out my post on when your child should start playing Roblox here!
-Kristy M., MommyToMany
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