Nov 21, 2019

Perhaps the hardest technological decision parents will make is when to purchase their child a smartphone. 

If your social media feed is like mine, you likely see periodic calls for help from your friends, asking what age everyone let their children have a cell phone, and how they knew their child was ready. 

Only YOU can accurately gauge when your child is ready for their own smartphone.

If you scour the internet for assistance in making this monumental technological decision, you’ll find a bevy of contradicting studies; one study suggests that the average age a child takes ownership of a smartphone is six, while another study states the age of twelve

Then, factor in a study by Influence Central, which reports that the average age for first time smartphone ownership is ten years old.

The reality is that the technology studies mean next to nothing when it comes to your child and only you can accurately gauge when your child is ready for their own smartphone.

Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?

1. Pair with Your Partner

A study conducted by Sprint and Techlicious showed 37% of dads are likely to give their child a smartphone in elementary school, while 41% of moms are more likely to give their child a smartphone in middle school. 

Make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to issuing your kiddo a smartphone. A united front will go a long way with enforcing phone rules.

2. Age is But a Number

You are the best gauge of your child’s ability to handle the responsibility of phone ownership. Smartphones are expensive pieces of equipment, best issued when your child is able to understand the weight of such responsibility. 

Considering that the iPhone is the most popular smartphone among teens, and the average cost for an iPhone is right around $700, handing over such an expensive piece of equipment to a child does not come lightly for the average family.

If you have a child who doesn’t yet understand the value of a smartphone, is often misplacing and losing items, or is too young to take care of his things, you may want to wait a little before making a smartphone purchase for him. Instead, work with them to understand the value of things, and be more mindful of their possessions.

If you feel strongly about your child’s need for a phone, be sure to invest in protecting that phone from damage. 

3. Peer Factor

If your child is telling you that all of their friends have smartphones, do some investigative work. Ask some of your child’s friends parents if they have phones, to gauge how many do, indeed have their own smartphones. While you’re asking, also ask how they are monitoring usage, and what ground rules they’ve put into place.

4. Need or Desire

At the same time your child is asking for a smartphone, claiming that all of their friends have one, gauge if there really is a need for a smartphone, or if your child’s request is out of a desire to be like their friends. If your child is involved in after school activities, or goes to after school care, you may see a need for you to be able to contact your child directly with a smartphone.

5. Set Internet Rules

While you've likely discussed the importance of keeping personal information off social media, it's especially important when your child begins using a smartphone. If you're comfortable with your child frequenting social media sites, open the lines of communication so they'll feel comfortable enough to notify you of any threatening situations. Most importantly, establish basic rules about behavior online and on social media.

6. Sign a Contract

You’ve discussed your expectations and talked about the great responsibility that comes along with owning a smartphone, now put everything in writing. Weight your words by drafting a contract outlining the rules for smartphone conduct, and put the consequences to those rules into writing. Having a contract with your child holds both of you accountable; if your child breaks a smartphone rule, they know the repercussions and you know the consequence to dole out. 


Download our printable Family Media Contract.


As you would instruct your kiddo, the best course of action is to use your best judgement when it comes to buying your child a smartphone. If your gut instinct tells you that your child isn’t ready, or that an expensive piece of technology is likely to be lost, then wait a few months and revisit.  

Lauren B. Stevens

Lauren B. Stevens is a writer, editor & digital parent, whose pieces have been published across the internet and featured in several print anthologies. Lauren lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and son, and enjoys spending her family time hiking and traveling.