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Should Your Child Have a Smartphone? A Look at Age and Risks

Published date: July 2024

group of children playing on their smartphones
The smartphone revolution has transformed how we connect, learn, and play. But for parents, it raises a big question: when, or even if, their child should have access to a smartphone. There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but Your Co-op Mobile can help you weigh up the decision. 

Should 10 year olds have phones?

Under 10: Screen time for very young children is generally discouraged by health experts. In fact, studies have shown that Children are surprisingly vulnerable to addiction because their own self-discipline is still developing. Unmanaged use of phones can cause children at this age and younger to have fewer interests, and aspirations, and negatively impact schoolwork. even worse, there are incidences where mental health, relationships, and eyesight can suffer.

However, with good oversight, simple phones for basic calls to parents might be a good first step for safety and peace of mind but full smartphone use would not be advised. If you are giving your 10 year old a phone, consider using parental controls on tablets too or shared devices to restrict access to inappropriate content.

How does age influence when Children can have a Smartphone?

10-12: This can be a grey area as some schools might require devices for learning, and pre-teens are naturally curious about the digital world. Consider a phone with parental controls that limit internet access and apps to kid-safe options, with clear rules around usage. Try and focus on building their digital literacy skills and teaching them safe browsing habits. Open communication is key.

13-14: Social media beckons at this age but parental controls are still important. Open discussions about online safety, cyberbullying, and responsible online behaviour become crucial as this is a formative age in kids' lives. Consider a mid-range phone with a data plan that allows for monitored exploration of social media and age-appropriate apps. Talk to your child about creating strong passwords, being cautious about who they connect with online, and never sharing personal information.

15-16: Teenagers crave independence, and a smartphone is often a symbol of just that. At this age, you can transition towards more relaxed controls, but emphasise responsible data usage and online safety. Consider a contract with clear expectations around screen time, app usage, and online behaviour, with consequences for breaches of trust.

Smartphone Risks and How They Change with Age

The risks associated with smartphones evolve as children mature. Here's a breakdown of some key concerns:

Younger Children
Exposure to inappropriate content, addictive games, and online predators are the main concerns. Parental controls, limited internet access, and open conversations about what they see online can help mitigate these risks.

Cyberbullying, sexting, and the pressure to present a perfect online persona become bigger risks. Discussions about online safety and responsible social media use are crucial. Encourage them to be critical consumers of information online and to develop healthy online relationships. 

Sleep disruption due to late-night screen time can also impact well-being. Establish clear boundaries around phone use at night and in social situations. Leading by example and placing the same rules on yourself as a parent can increase your chances of boundaries and best practices being respected by your teenage child.

Finding Balance

There's a lot to consider, but remember, open communication is your best tool. Talk to your child about the risks, set boundaries, and encourage responsible use. Starting conversations with the onus on you as a parent to share what you see and do online can be a useful way to hear what your child is doing online.

Points to Remember
  • Age is a guideline, not a strict rule. Consider your child's maturity level and responsible habits before letting them use a smartphone.
  • Focus on open communication. Talk to your child about online safety, responsible app usage, and the importance of a healthy balance between the digital and real world.
  • Lead by example. Practice healthy screen time habits and digital use yourself as this will set a good example for your child to follow.


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