Kids and Phones: Shaping the New Age of Phone Users

By Cole Purvis
Kids using cellphone

In an era dominated by technology, the age at which children receive their first phone has steadily decreased. In fact, a 2021 report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that provides entertainment and technology recommendations for families, revealed that a staggering 42% of kids now have their own phones by the tender age of 10. As parents grapple with the decision to provide their kids with this powerful tool, the need for clear boundaries, safety measures and responsible phone usage becomes paramount. In this article, we’ll explore some best practices to ensure our children’s safety and wellbeing in an ever-changing digital world.

A Shift in Norms

In the not-so-distant past, receiving a phone was a rite of passage associated with the teenage years. I remember receiving my first phone in middle school. It was half the size of my palm and boasted a retractable sliding keyboard. Most importantly, it served as a way to contact my parents in emergencies — a sentiment that still rings true today. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2020, most parents of children who have their own smartphones and are under the age of 12 say that being able to directly contact their child and vice versa was the major reason they provided them with a cellular device.

However, while this intent is understandable, the reality is a much more complicated matter. The capabilities of an average phone have completely transformed over the past decade, and children have taken notice. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the most common ways tweens are using their phones includes watching online videos, streaming TV shows and playing video games. This is a far cry from what most parents had in mind when purchasing their children’s phones.

Crafting a Contract

To some, the idea of a contract may seem stuffy. However, many other parents set up agreements with their children. Contracts establish transparent guidelines regarding the use of their cellular device. The goal of such a contract is to ensure children use their phones in a safe, responsible manner. This will, in turn, help them develop into more well-rounded individuals who can coexist with technology — not be ruled by it.

If you are interested in developing a contract for your own child, the following are some essential points you should consider adding, among many others, according to celebrity youth advocate Josh Shipp.

  • A promise to share passwords with parents and allow them to look through their child’s phone whenever it is clearly necessary.
  • An agreement to keep all online searches safe, avoiding risky or inappropriate websites.
  • A curfew for phone usage during school nights and weekends.
  • An everyday limit for total screen time.
  • An oath to never text and drive, if or when they are old enough.

Regardless of what you choose to include in your kid’s phone contract, remember to try to strike a healthy balance between ensuring safety and nurturing independence. If your child feels as though they have a lack of control over the scenario, it will inhibit their own growth and development into a smarter, more mature decision-maker.

Keeping Your Child Safe

Today’s phones are much more advanced than they once were — providing users with seamless high-speed processing and easy access to the internet and all its capabilities. In fact, an average iPhone is more than 5,000 times faster than the strongest super computers of 30 years ago, according to a blog from tech giant, Adobe.

The utility of a phone will naturally expose your child to an endless web of strangers, scammers, unknown web pages, etc. All these dangers are avoidable, however, with the help of proper parental guidance and transparent two-way communication with your child. So, take the time to sit down with them, voice your concerns, listen to theirs and create a plan to best ensure their safety and wellbeing. They’ll thank you for it later.

How to Get Your Teen Volunteering

Giggle’s 2024 Summer Camp Guide

Is My Child Sleeping Enough?