How Young is Too Young for a Phone?

Evelyn Streit, Columnist

More and more kids are getting their own mobile devices early on in their lives, and adults have to figure out when exactly the right age is to get kids their own phones. Cellphones, in certain circumstances, can prove to be helpful. In a day and age where children stuff their schedules with school, extracurriculars, and other social activities, they are going places by themselves more often and need a quick way to communicate with others. There are many benefits and downsides that need to be taken into consideration when getting children their own phones.

A child’s phone isn’t just a device for them to have fun playing games on; it is also a very powerful asset to the child and their parents. First off, for kids, having a cell phone opens up an entirely new world of social interaction. Nowadays, things like messaging and social media are how people communicate with one another. Things like birthday parties and get-togethers are scheduled through group chats and Instagram direct messages. Yes, there are other ways to contact friends, but this is the main method right now, and kids who don’t own their own phone are often put at a social disadvantage. This isn’t to say that every kid needs a phone in order to have and hang out with friends, but it certainly makes it easier. Also, according to Huffpost, technology opens up other options for socially awkward or shy kids to have meaningful interactions with others their age. In addition to convenience, cell phones create an easy and simple way for parents to keep track of their kids. Apps like “Find my iPhone” allow parents to track where their child is if there was ever an emergency. Also, if a young person was ever in danger, by simply pressing a few buttons, they can find help. So, for many kids, mobile devices help to keep in touch with people and increase their safety.

There are still a couple of downsides to allowing kids to possess their own phone. One of the most commonly debated problems is the idea that technology is taking away from people’s face-to-face interaction. While this might be true in some cases, many families and friends are often busy. After getting my phone, I was able to far more easily talk to them and overcome the challenges of being separated. Another heated topic is that on all digital devices and social media platforms there is the threat of cyber bullying and inappropriate behavior online. This, however, is something that can be easily monitored and fixed at home. It is up to the parents to have conversations with their child before getting a phone to make sure that they understand how to behave online and what to steer clear of. For especially young kids, such as those who need their phones before middle school or as a preteen, there are apps to track the phone interface, so you can see exactly what they’re looking at. The only downside is that you get every notification they get, and kids these days get a ton of notifications, from a lot of different apps.

Overall, the perfect age for a phone is really dependent on your family’s personal situation. It is important to think about the child’s needs, schedule, and responsibility level. Ages 10 and up seem to be popular, and once a kid reaches the double digits they are most likely mature enough and trustworthy enough to have the privilege of a phone. But again, it really just depends.

The ways that electronics are used and impact our everyday lives is very different now than when your parents or grandparents were alive. Therefore, it makes sense that new questions and debates would arise over the topic, and remember that depending on the way it is used, the internet and digital world could be a godsend or a curse for your child.