The average age a child gets a first phone is 10.3. But that doesn’t mean every kid is ready for a smartphone at their 10th birthday party. Parenting decisions aren’t one-size-fits-all — some children are ready for a smartphone at 10, some at 16. Remember: 10.3 is the average. But what factors or milestones might help parents decide when the time is right? Here, noted experts offer advice to help guide parents through these vital decisions.
Do they act responsibly with other belongings yet?
“One of the simplest things is, are they responsible for their other pieces of technology they already own?” says Jesse Weinberger, who speaks frequently on issues of internet safety and is the author of “The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket.”
“If your child isn't responsible for this physical ownership — what it means to maintain a piece of technology — they're showing their intellectual and emotional immaturity, which is going to let you know,” she says. Consequently, if they can’t keep other devices they own out of the washing machine, they likely are not yet ready for a more costly one. “The physical maintenance of other devices is huge,” Weinberger says. “That’s a good mile-marker.”
Do they understand consequences?
Caroline Knorr, parenting editor at Common Sense Media, ran into this very issue with her son.
“He was constantly losing jackets and losing notebooks and even his first cell phone, and just not really understanding the consequences of the loss of something — the value of it,” she says. “So you want to make sure that your kid is pretty good about keeping his or her things in their possession.”
If they can’t keep track of and be responsible for less valuable objects, that’s a good indication that they’re not ready for a smartphone — whether they’re a sixth grader or high school senior.