Last Updated on September 20, 2021
Preteens may not be able to drive or see a PG-13 movie unaccompanied by an adult. However, they can still carry the world in their pockets in the form of a smartphone.
reporting, more than half of all kids own a phone by age 11. That’s more than ever, and the numbers seem to be on the rise. And though it can be tough to know when to buy your child a phone, you can’t deny the advantages.
What are some of the upshots of a kid having a phone? For one, it can act as a way to get in touch with your youngster—fast. That’s especially important for parents who worry about being available for their kids. It’s also a nice feeling for divorced moms and dads who like being able to text, call, and FaceTime at will.
Another benefit of giving a child a first phone is providing a gateway to technological comfort. Most kids already find technology fairly native. They’ve grown up around tech-empowered systems all their lives, right down to the family’s smart assistant. Having a phone allows them to continue adapting to the ever-changing digital world.
Finally, phones can be highly useful for doing schoolwork. During the pandemic, schools across the country moved online. As a result, plenty of students logged into classrooms virtually from devices including smartphones.
This isn’t to suggest that you should run out and grab a cellphone for your preteen, though. Every child is different, which means you need to evaluate when the timing is right. Below are some ways to gauge when you feel you’re ready to have “the phone conversation” with your kiddo.
1. Your child is involved in multiple extracurricular activities.
Now that Covid-related restrictions have been lifted across the country, many kids are back into sports and hobbies. This means your child may be running around after school from day to day. Even if you keep a strict calendar, you might miss a practice or forget a pick-up.
You don’t have to go all-out, though, and buy a top-line phone device. All you need is a way to communicate in real-time. has made headlines by offering phones that allow contact without access to the Internet or app store. Consequently, you can keep up with your kids (and vice versa) without worrying that they’ll be nosing around the web.
2. Your child will be responsible with a high-tech device.
Real phones aren’t toys. They’re expensive pieces of machinery that deserve to be treated carefully. True, even adults break phone screens once in a while. Yet kids can be even harder on their phones and tech products.
Only give your kid a phone after making sure that the phone will be pampered. Do yourself a favor, too, and invest in the you can find. Durable ones might not be flashy, and they’ll probably seem pricey. Nevertheless, it costs much less to pay for a solid phone case upfront than to replace a phone.
3. Your child can resist peer pressure.
Peer pressure is real and it affects even the most confident-seeming preteen. Never assume that your child won’t be tempted to create a “finsta” account or talk to strangers online. Instead, have plenty of discussions about safe cell phone use before ever purchasing a phone.
Don’t be surprised if your child finds your discussions annoying or frustrating. Most young people don’t want to be lectured to. (You probably didn’t, either, at that age.) But a child who can’t even sit still for a conversation about staying secure online isn’t ready for a phone, anyway. Expect to have plenty of talks before giving the go-ahead.
4. Your child isn’t just trying to keep up with friends.
“I need a phone because everyone else has one!” You’ll probably hear this over and over, especially if you’re the last parent to wait to buy a child’s phone. Nonetheless, treat this declaration as a warning. Kids who only want a phone because they see other kids with a phone probably aren’t ready to assume responsibility for it.
When your child begins to beg for a phone in late elementary or early middle school, stay open to listening. Ask questions like, “Why does he have a phone? How does she use her phone?” to understand the situation better. Usually, kids who aren’t quite old enough for phones can’t answer you. In that case, you’ll know that your child just wants to feel part of the crowd.
5. Your child follows your house rules.
This is an essential “must-have” before ordering your child a phone. Kids who constantly misbehave or resist rules shouldn’t have phones. After all, if you can’t count on your son or daughter to not talk back or clean a bedroom, you won’t get much phone compliance.
On the other hand, let’s say that your kid has matured considerably over the past year. Under those circumstances, you might feel comfortable buying a first phone. Again, you don’t have to purchase the most expensive product you can find. But a basic smartphone could be the right decision.
6. You can afford to have another bill.
You know from experience that phones cost money. You can expect to get a monthly bill for any phone you buy for your preteen. Therefore, look at your budget carefully. Can you absorb extra monthly fees?
If you realize that you’re not able to buy a smartphone, you may want to talk to your child. Maybe he or she could help neighbors or babysit a cousin. The money that’s saved could go into a future phone account. It never hurts to ask your child to put a little “skin in the game.” Plus, you’ll show your youngster that you feel the timing’s right, even if the money’s tight.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong time to get your child a smartphone. Use your judgment based on what you know about your kiddo. Just make sure you remain watchful and ready to pull the plug temporarily in the case of device misuse or mishandling.