Determine when your kids are ready for a device

Deciding the appropriate time to hand your kids a device of their own can be tough to navigate. The following guide can help you talk about the responsibilities that come with having a device and what it means to be ready.

Discussion points

  1. Smartphones 101

    Start by asking your kids why they think phones are important. Try to go beyond answers like “because everyone has one” or “it’s just the way the world is now.” The goal is for you to learn their perspective on how phones should be used.

  2. The role of smartphones in our day-to-day lives.

    Discuss with your kids how they would use their phone if and when they receive one. Are all of those uses important? Are there ways to do those things without a phone? Would a phone help solve real challenges your kids are experiencing?

  3. Describe expectations and responsibilities.

    Ask your kids to reflect on their own readiness and share your expectations for what they need to do in order to have their own phone. Share with your kids the realistic cost of a new phone, and discuss how you would handle it being lost or broken. You might also want to explain how a data plan and app purchases work, so they understand that even digital actions have real-life implications.

  4. Are they ready?

    Finally, have your kids brainstorm ways they can demonstrate that they are ready for their own phone. For example, how will they keep track of their own screen time? Or, how will they be responsible for managing the app purchases on their device? For more on this topic, view the conversation guide topics “Deciding when and how to use your devices” and “Finding healthy content.”

Things to keep in mind

Every kid is unique.

There is no magic age when all kids are ready for devices of their own. The decision should be based on their maturity level and ability to handle the responsibility that comes with owning one.

Talk about expectations.

Even if your kids aren’t ready for a device, it’s valuable to talk with them about what your expectations are for when the time is right. This will help them understand the responsibility that comes with owning a device.

Get help with online security and safety.

For information on teaching your kids about online security (like passwords) and safety (like who it’s OK to talk to on their device), visit the Be Internet Awesome website and our Safety Center.

Instead of focusing so much on the technology, talk to kids about what their motivations are behind the use of that technology and what they are trying to achieve.

Nick Allen, PhD

Try it at home

Write a letter or create a presentation

If you’ve had the above conversation with your kids, and they’re convinced they’re ready for a device, ask them to explain their rationale. This could simply take the form of a letter or report, or even a presentation, similar to what they create for school. Suggest they include specific examples of how they would handle situations like seeing something that makes them upset or uncomfortable, using their device at school, or other concerns you may have. Afterward, have an open and honest discussion about the ways you feel they are or aren’t ready for a device of their own.

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