When should I buy my child a smartphone?

Parents in today’s technology-filled world want their children to have all the resources our digital era can offer, but wonder if giving them a smartphone such as an iPhone too early could harm their development. TeenSafe, which makes mobile parental monitoring solutions, has guidelines parents can follow to ensure their children get valued screen time to keep them savvy without hurting their development.

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"Our children are being raised as digital natives and we want them to thrive in this technological age," says CEO Rawdon Messenger. "We want them in-the-know when it comes to technology so they can be successful, well-rounded adults when they leave our home. At the same time, we must take responsibility in guiding them through the pre-teen to eighteen years and the struggles that come with being a teen today."  

Here are some guidelines for parents wondering when their child is ready for a smartphone. Stick with the one-in-four rule by allowing your child one more hour of access to media every four years:

  • 2 – 5 years old: 1 hour;
  • 6 – 9 years old: 2 hours;
  • 10 years old; 3 hours.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against screen time for children under two years old because the brain develops better through unstructured playtime and human interaction. Regardless of any age, use the twenty-twenty-twenty rule, keeping in mind that when children are using media, every 20 seconds, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away.

So how should parents decide when it is right for their child to have a smartphone? Every child is unique, so parents should ask themselves these questions to determine if their child needs a smartphone:

  • Have you set limits for digital device use and does your child understand and respect these limits?
  • Does your child need a phone to stay in contact with you in case of an emergency?
  • Can they be trusted not to use the phone during inappropriate times, like class?
  • Have you laid the foundation for responsible smartphone behavior and talked with them about sexting?

If a parent decides that their child is ready to have a smartphone, they must keep the conversation going by staying in touch with their child’s online behavior, ensuring it is healthy.