Deciding the appropriate time to give your children a device of their own can be difficult 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.
Start by asking your children why they think phones are important. Try to go beyond answers like 'because everyone has one' or 'it’s just the way that the world is now'. The goal is for you to learn their perspective on how phones should be used.
Discuss with your children 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 to solve real challenges that your children are experiencing?
Ask your children 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 children the realistic cost of a new phone, and discuss how you would manage if the phone got 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.
Finally, have your children brainstorm ways that they can demonstrate 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'.
There is no magic age when all children 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.
Even if your children 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.
Nick Allen, PhD
“Instead of focusing so much on the technology, talk to children about what their motivations are behind the use of that technology and what they are trying to achieve.”
If you’ve had the above conversation with your children, and they’re convinced that 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 that 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 that you may have. Afterwards, have an open and honest discussion about the way you feel if they are or aren’t ready for a device of their own.