According to a report by Common Sense Media, fifty-three per cent of children have a smartphone of their own by age 11. By the time they’re 16, 89 percent of kids have one. GoHenry data also shows that between the ages of 10 - 14 years, 67% of kids are logging into our app, using their own phones.
Despite this, there is little consensus on the “right age” to give your child their first phone. Yet the pressure is on from middle school onwards as kids begin to flex their independence muscles.
Here are 10 signs your child is ready to take on the responsibilities of owning their first phone.
1. They want more independence
Achieving independence is an essential part of the journey to adulthood. For your child, this means trying new things, taking on more responsibility, and finding ways to navigate the world without you by their side. Trusting them to have their first phone is a step towards showing them you support their need to be independent and do things on their own.
Phone tip: Before you give them a phone, talk about expectations and rules around usage in and out of the home.
2. They need it for emergencies
With independence comes more time spent away from you, which is why one of the main reasons parents agree to a phone is for emergencies. Be sure that your child knows (1) How to use their phone in an emergency and (2) how they need to respond ASAP if you call them.
Phone tip: Whether your child is using an iPhone or an Android smartphone, make sure they know how to use the emergency call function.
3. They show a broader understanding of the world
Recognizing your child’s maturity in one area of life can also indicate that they would be ready for a phone. One good sign is understanding that phones cost money and that there are different phone tariffs and charges. Another is understanding how they have to look after their phone, from not sharing passwords with friends to physically looking after phones, so they don’t get lost or stolen and, of course, behavior on social media.
Phone tip: Ask your child to find the best affordable deal for a phone for their needs; Mint Mobile has a Family Plan that allows you to mix and match individual plans, so everyone gets the data they need with no overages.
4. They need help with organization
The sweet spot for being given a phone is around 10-11 years because a phone is handy for students who need help with middle school organization. Students use it for timetables, homework assignments, teacher messages, and class group discussions.
Phone tip: Keep a note of the passwords for all school apps and Google classrooms, especially if your child changes their password from the one given by the school.
5. They can self-regulate
Children who are good at setting limits with devices at home (or following rules about devices) are also more likely to be ready to own a phone. They tend to understand the responsibility that comes with phone ownership, not just around healthy habits but also what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of behavior online.
Phone tip: Be sure to model healthy behavior around phone usage if you want your child to follow suit.
6. They need it for school
Phones are super-helpful from middle school onwards. Aside from being used for lesson and homework research, many education apps are used at school, with a considerable number of schools also utilizing Google Classroom.
Phone tip: Add Google Classroom and lesson apps to your phone. This way, you can ensure your child is paying attention to alerts and messages from school.
7. They are learning about financial education
Having a phone can help your child to develop good financial habits by using apps such as GoHenry. The GoHenry app and prepaid debit card can help with money management basics, including learning how to budget, save and track their daily spending. Plus, it enables you to pre-load their card with cash, should they need it after school.
Phone tip: GoHenry’s in-app Money Missions can help expand their knowledge of savings, investing, spending and tracking their money.
8. They are eager to learn new things
These days calling someone is way down the list of things kids do with a phone. You may hate the idea of them being on YouTube and TikTok but don’t underestimate how much kids learn from these platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of 13 to 17-year-olds use their phones to learn new things, with the educational arm of TikTok #LearnOnTikTok received over 282.8 billion views with their educational content.
Phone tip: Talk to your child about what they could use a smartphone for outside of messaging, talking about reputable sources of information.
9. They want to keep in touch with friends
As kids hit their early teens, developmentally, friendships become everything – and this change means they want to be able to keep in touch with friends ALL the time, whether by SMS or a messaging app. Don’t underestimate how much young people feel a sense of acceptance and belonging from their friendships. Talking to friends also supports the development of compassion and their sense of identity outside the family.
Phone tip: Set boundaries for talking with friends, especially at bedtime, telling your child you expect them to turn their phone off at a set time on school days and weekends.
10. They look after their possessions
Phones are expensive, so one good way to tell if your child is ready for one is to look at how they treat their possessions and how much they understand the value of money. Thinking everything is disposable and replaceable is a sign that discussions around the value of money are needed before they get a phone.
Phone tip: One way to teach your child this is to ask your child to save towards a phone, perhaps 10 - 15% of the price. You can set up a savings goal on the GoHenry app.
Find out more about the GoHenry kids debit card and start setting up saving goals today!