When You Should ACTUALLY Give Your Child A Phone

Is there a right age?
Happy parents and their small sons using wireless technology on sofa in the living room.
skynesher via Getty Images
Happy parents and their small sons using wireless technology on sofa in the living room.

In the last few years, due to the rise of social media and the constant need to feel connected, bringing your phone to school has been normalised.

But, the government has now said that schools in England have been given new guidance to stop the use of mobile phones during the school day in a bid to limit screen time.

Even at home, screen time continues to be a pressing issue for parents, according to Matt Buttery, CEO of global parenting programmes provider Triple P.

He revealed that recent data from Triple P shows over two-thirds of parents, 69%, have noticed adverse effects in their children if they spend too much time looking at screens, and nearly half, 49%, are concerned about the amount of time their children are spending on digital devices.

With these statistics, parents aren’t wrong to worry about giving their kids a phone, but when is the right time? Do they even need one? How can you ensure their screen time is limited?

When do I give my child a phone?

Well, David Paton, headteacher at Radnor House Sevenoaks – an independent day school for 2-18 year-olds in Kent, says that though it can be frustrating, phones are necessary in this modern world.

However, he says you need to implement boundaries, starting with deciding when to introduce a phone to your child.

Speaking to HuffPost UK he said: “Giving a phone to a six-year-old is clearly unwise but perhaps waiting until 16 is also counterproductive.

“So where is the sweet spot? It very much depends on family circumstances. If your child commutes you might want the security of knowing you can contact them, even track them, from an early age.”

David says that receiving their first phone is a rite of passage for the modern child, but like with all hard-earned freedoms they should be lost if abused.

“Before handing over the responsibility, I recommend parents establish clear, non-negotiable rules and boundaries around use,” he added.

These include:

  • Adding your child’s phone to a family group using the Apple or Android operating systems
  • Enforcing ground rules such as “no phones at the table” and “no phones in the bedroom”
  • Restricting social media apps like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat and implementing parental controls to block and filter inappropriate content.

How can we limit screen time as a family?

Parents play a vital role in helping their kids limit screen time, even with teenage children you can try some techniques suggested by Matt Buttery, who says you can:

Set family limits

Agree as a family on when you’ll all switch off - this is particularly important around family mealtimes or bedtimes when strengthening relationships or winding down is the focus. It’s also great for your child to see you modelling positive screen time behaviours.

Look for opportunities to do something as a family

Encourage your child to come off their device by organising something interesting to do together. The easiest way to reduce screen time is by replacing the time you usually spend on a device with something else.

For younger kids, a kick-around in the park, drawing together, or a hide-and-seek game are great ways to encourage fresh air away from devices while also spending quality time together.

Keep the conversation open and honest

Screens are now a normal part of the way young people socialise with their friends. Suddenly removing this method of communication from their daily routine, without a clear explanation as to why, could lead to confusion and conflict.

“Instead, parents may want to establish open dialogue with their children and discuss reasonable rules about being online together. Explain to them that a healthy mix of ‘real life’ interaction and online is important - and that we can get something positive from both,” he says.