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Effects of Smartphones on Children

What Age Should Kids Get a Phone? A Guide For Both Techy And Non-Tech Savvy Parents

Phones have become a prominent part of everyday life for people all over the world. By 2020, around 79% of the world’s population were smartphone users. Of this number, more and more users are children as they are given a personal phone to contact their friends, play games, and complete school work. Yet, the first mainstream smartphone was only released in 2007, so the timeline of at what age kids should be trusted with a phone is still being created.

This makes it difficult for parents to know when their child needs a phone. For some families, kids have access to a mobile as soon as they learn how to ask their parents for games. Other families try to avoid introducing phones to their kids until it’s an absolute necessity. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your kids. However, we’ve created some guidance on key indicators that your child is ready to responsibly own a phone to help you in that discussion.

Impact of Phones on Kids

Ultimately, the constant use of phones in our lives is a fairly new thing, so there’s limited research into how they can impact our children. It can feel like, unless you’re tech savvy and regularly use templates for a social media report or can build your own phone, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. On social media it is often the risks of phones that are talked about more, especially how cyberbullying can damage mental health and self-worth when phones are used in excess. Similarly, there are fears that phones limit your kid’s social skills, affecting their critical thinking and making face-to-face conversations difficult.

Even so, this depends on your kid’s phone usage and their attitude towards it. Phones can have a positive impact on children’s lives, helping them to be organized, giving them independence, and aiding their learning. As a non-tech savvy parent, you don’t need to know everything like what a virtual phone number from Dialpad does or the inner workings of the phone handset. Most likely, your kids will work it out anyway and your focus needs to be on evaluating the impact a phone will have on your child.

Child looking at a phone

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What Age Should Kids Get a Phone?

  • When They Become Independent

As your child grows, there’s going to be more situations where you’re apart from them and they start to do things on their own. This may be going out to play with friends, staying for afterschool clubs, or taking public transport to and from school. Although your child is becoming independent in these areas, having a phone on them maintains contact between you and your child wherever they are, helping to keep them safe in emergencies.

Independence can also be shown in other ways as your child develops and becomes more responsible for themselves. Even if they are still around you most of the time, they may use a personal email set up with the best Gmail extensions, show independence in completing homework without help and be wanting to call friends. Giving your kids a phone can help facilitate further independence so that they can use it as they want – not just to contact home.

  • When They Understand the Risks

For those who have used phones for some time, the risks seem obvious. Whether thinking of cyberbullying, internet access to explicit content, or even downloading viruses from websites without DNS security, these risks may not be apparent to your kids. Discussing the risks of phones can warn your children, aiming to prevent them from coming into contact with these dangers. Their response to your conversation can show if they will act responsibly.

It’s also a good opportunity to share information about what your kids should do if they do encounter the dangers. Pointing them to useful websites, support lines, or school pastoral teams can be a lifeline to kids in these situations, knowing that they don’t have to manage it alone. Giving them a variety of options also means that even if they’re not comfortable talking to you about it, they can still seek help to resolve the situation.

Phone showing phishing malware notification disguised as a security warning

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  • When They Make Good Decisions

For kids, making decisions can be tricky, especially when one choice is doing homework and the other is watching video clips all day. As they get older and have more experience with the consequences of their decisions, their critical thinking skills improve and they learn to make better decisions. This can influence how they approach buying a mobile phone, the limits they set themselves, and the decisions they make when using their own.

Decision-making skills are key in working out where their phone fits into their priorities. Although they may want to use it constantly, they need to recognize that it’s not always appropriate. This means your kids need to understand that school work or face-to-face social time is more important than building gaming skills. Likewise, they can show self-control and put the phone down for periods, such as a couple of hours before they try to sleep or during important events.

  • When They Appreciate the Costs

Young children have little concept of money and how much things cost. Because of this, they don’t appreciate that, when things break, they have to be repaired or paid for. Similarly, with a phone, other costs can quickly add up too, including spending on apps or exceeding the contract limits. Understanding that a phone isn’t free can help your kid to think responsibly about their phone usage and how much they need one.

Owning a phone is one of the first steps for a kid to understand the responsibilities of being an adult and looking after themselves. Researching different phone models and contracts together can help your kid realize the upfront costs involved, as well as how the best phone system for small businesses won’t necessarily be right for a child. Although they may not be paying for the phone initially, it can be handy to introduce them to the concepts of budgeting and saving.

Screenshot of mobile phone contract deals

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Tips for Parents

  • Only Add Necessary Apps

Technically, social media apps have an age restriction that requires users to be 13 or over. If your kid is younger than this and using a phone, it’s best to remove the temptation of social media and falling into the metaverse by not installing the apps. Likewise, do the same with other unnecessary apps, ensuring your kid has what they need but reducing the potential risks. There are also phone tracking apps that notify you of where your child is if needed.

  • Limit Screen Time

No one needs to be on their phone all day. Set phone-free zones or hours with your child, helping them to take time away from their phone. Encourage them in this by acting as an example, also avoiding using your phone during the agreed times or in the designated spaces. In particular, this may include the hours before they go to bed or avoiding phones at the dinner table. This creates an etiquette of when and where it’s appropriate to use your phone.

  • Set Up a Contract

There are various types of contracts with different limitations and features available, with anything from all-inclusive contracts  to pay-as-you-go options. These can control your kid’s phone usage by capping the data or texts they have available. The plan that suits your child’s needs may change as they get older, so reevaluate the contract regularly. Make it clear to your kid the limits of the contract and what will happen if they exceed these.

  • Use Parental Locks

Some phone apps have the option to prohibit your kid from accessing harmful content. Utilizing these can help reduce the risks for your child using their phone online. Particularly for younger kids, this ensures they only access age-appropriate content and avoid accidentally shopping through ecommerce sites. As your kid gets older, the responsibility will be on them to safely navigate the internet.

Screenshot of a restricted mode on a web browser designed to make children safer when browsing the internet

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  • Discuss Phone Boundaries With Your Kids

Announcing a bunch of rules to your kids doesn’t always go down well, so involve them in the conversation and decision-making. Talk about not answering the phone to unknown callers, or not buying from companies using a cloud call center to sell products to random phone numbers. Also, remember that a phone can be a private space for your kids, so there should be boundaries for you, meaning you can’t go through it without their permission.

Parents – Are Your Kids Ready for a Phone?

As we’ve seen, there’s no definite age for kids to get a phone. Their usage of it is different from your own, as they aren’t using apps for something like microservices for the enterprise designing developing and deploying, generally texting friends more than using it for business. There are benefits to your kids having a phone, however, it may not be something you’re comfortable with. Having an open discussion with your kids about this can help them understand your reasoning.

There’s also a lot of online support for parents navigating the online world with their kids. Do some research to find the forums and advice pages giving more information about other people’s experiences. Use online resources to start conversations in your family about independence and responsibility so you can approach this together. You’re not alone going through this and your kids getting phones can be a great learning opportunity for everyone.


Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of Dialpad VoIP call center conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. She is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Jessica Day also published articles for domains such as VirtualSpeech and Virtual Vocations. Here is her LinkedIn.

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