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Too young for a phone?

What's the right age to let your kids use a mobile?

Which situation below is inappropriate?

  • The teenager behind you in the long line at the coffee shop texts —click-click—the whole way to the cashier. 
  • A youngster at seventh-grade registration calls her friend on her mobile phone to tell her they are in the same science class.  
  • A fourth grader who just finished his performance as a scarecrow in the school play sits down in costume to play games on his mobile phone.
  • A young girl in kindergarten waits at the curb in front of an empty school dialing home to find out where her mum is.


Do any of these scenarios feel not quite right? Your response may indicate the age you believe is appropriate for your children to have mobile phones. This subject has become quite the hot topic as of late and it’s an important one to consider early on. 

If you’re considering giving into your child’s pleas for their own phone, here are some things you may want to take into account first. 

Five questions to consider

Most parents’ primary concerns about their children owning a mobile phone are the dangers that exist. Constantly being connected to a mobile phone exposes children to a myriad of complex issues like cyberbullying, sexting, and overtures from strangers. It is these issues that make the question about an appropriate age for children to own a phone crucial.

Various surveys say that 12-years-old is the common age when parents allow their children to use mobile phones. But that number is an average, meaning children much younger also have mobile phones. According to a 2010 report, more than 10 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 10 carry mobile phones. And since not all 12-year-olds are equal, the following questions are helpful when considering your own child and their needs and maturity level:

  1. How independent are your children?
  2. Are your children mature enough to own a mobile phone?
  3. Does this mobile phone fill a need or a social want?
  4. Are your children responsible enough to take care of a mobile phone?
  5. Can they be trusted not to disturb or harass others with the mobile phone?


Perhaps the most important question to think about is whether your children will be willing to accept limits on their mobile phone use, such as the number of text messages or the minutes of talking. Regardless of the age of your children, the privilege of a mobile phone should always come with restrictions, so knowing they will adhere to rules is a critical component of the decision.

A license to own

Before handing over a phone, it's important parents are able to talk to their kids about the purchase and appropriate use of the device—a version of the “It’s not a toy” talk. To nurture children’s best cooperation, start the conversation before you agree to their new privilege.

Start by exploring the positives and negatives of having a phone. Ask your children why they want a phone and how they plan to use it. You can use your own experiences as examples. Explain your expectations for how they’ll use the phone and how they won’t.

After you’re satisfied with your discussions, consider making a contract with your children to spell out the details of your conversation. It might sound over-the-top, but a written list of expectations helps create an objective reminder of the talk—an enormous gift when your children claim, “they never said that” or “you agreed I could.”

Follow through

So what is the best age to buy children a mobile phone? There is no right answer. Each parent knows their child best, and this should be the foundation for your answer. 

The optimal path to that decision is an informed path. Ask parents whom you respect about their decision. Have conversations with your children about the privilege. Then, make a contract that spells out your expectations.
That is the easy part; afterwards, you need to stick to the contract regardless of their whining, grumpy behavior, and other means of showing displeasure with what they agreed to. You are the parent, after all.

About the Author: Tara Heath is a mother of two and a freelance writer in Southern California. As a parent, this is a question she has had to wrestle with daily and enjoys sharing her thoughts with other parents. Follow her on Twitter for more! 

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