Mom! All the others have one

Okay, I’m only 22 and kids aren’t in my cards for another four to six years or so. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, I found myself in a (non-theoretical) conversation about when kids should be given mobile phones. So, for this week’s blog post, I thought I’d look into it some more (and see what the internet says).

How did I get into this conversation? I was hanging out with some people from my yoga teacher training who have young children, and one of them found herself in the dilemma that her kids are approaching an age when other children in their class start having phones — and she’s not sure what to do.

So, she asked me and some of the other younger trainees how old we were when we were given our first phone. The answers varied quite a bit and this made me curious. Personally, I received my first phone in 2007. It was a hand-me-down from my grandpa — and a Nokia brick if ever there was one. It could call, text, and maybe take a few pictures but that was it. I was eight.

Others we talked to had received their first phone when they were around 10-13 which is about the same as my peers as far as I remember.

Today though, the world looks different and it seems like some kids are almost born with an iPhone.

When do kids get their first phone?

According to a survey by Common Sense Media, 11% of eight-year-olds had a smartphone in 2015. In 2019, that number had risen to 19%. Unfortunately, there isn’t a statistic for 2020 or 2020 but my guess is that it’s around the same or higher than 2019.

So, we know that the age at which children get their first phone is decreasing, but exactly how young are they? A 2020 blog post by the US Children’s Bureau says that “the average age kids get a phone is between 12 and 13.” However, a 2019 survey made by the Swedish telecommunications multinational, Telia, showed that kids in Denmark are eight years old (on average) when they get a phone.

Hence, the beliefs about the “right” age differ quite a bit from country to country.

What do the experts say?

So what should the mom from yoga teacher training do if she’d asked experts rather than us? If she follows Common Sense Media’s advice, then there isn’t some magic threshold for when a child is responsible enough to handle a phone and the freedom it gives.

Rather, parents should ask themselves:

  • Do your kids show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house? Do they show up when they say they will?
  • Do your kids tend to lose things, such as backpacks or homework folders? If so, expect they might lose an (expensive!) phone, too.
  • Do your kids need to be in touch for safety reasons?
  • Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
  • Do you think they’ll use cellphones responsibly — for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
  • Can they adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Will they use text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?

Source: Common Sense Media

Bill Gates disapproves

How old should kids be then? Eight? 10? 12? Not according to Bill Gates. Some years back, he gave an interview with The Daily Mirror in which he revealed that none of his children received smartphones until the age of 14.

Additionally, the Gates family has a strict no-phones-at-the-dinner-table rule and a limit on screentime. But, as the co-founder of Microsoft, he probably has seen the best and worst sides of digital media and wants to screen his kids from that.

The question is if the rest of parents should do the same?

Infographic: Who's Responsible for Children's Smartphone Use? | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Source: Statista

Feature Image: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels