When should my child be allowed a phone?  

As your child gets older, they may show signs of wanting independence and may ask if they can have a mobile phone. This could be so that they can contact you when they’re away from you, communicate with friends, or to use apps and games.  

Things to consider

The age children show interest in getting a mobile phone seems to be getting younger and younger. But don’t let that pressure you into doing something that neither you nor your child is ready for. It’s a big decision to make. Here are some things to consider:

  • Your child’s age, development stage and how responsible they are.
  • How much independence they have – do they walk to school on their own or with friends?
  • What type of phone would be suitable for their age?
  • How will you check the use of the phone?
  • Do they have a good understanding of how to stay safe online?
  • Do you as a parent understand how to use the parental controls on a phone?

Understand why your child wants a phone

If your child has asked you for a mobile phone, listen to their reasons for why they want or feel they need one.

  • If they’re at an age where you’re thinking about letting them go out without an adult or stay home alone, it might be a good idea for them to have a phone to contact someone in an emergency.
  • It’s important to consider the social aspects of having a phone. The average age most children have a phone nowadays is 11 years old, and it may be that your child may feel left out or that they don’t fit in with their peers if they don’t have one.
  • Make sure you talk to your child about their phone use and what they are doing. Having honest conversations together is important for their protection. Talk to them about not giving away any personal information or sharing location openly for safety.
  • If your child wants to use social media, talk to them about the risks such as dangerous trends and challenges and how social media affects self-esteem. Most social media platforms have a minimum age of 13.

Choosing a phone for your child

Whatever age you decide to give your child a mobile phone, it’s a good idea to put some rules and boundaries in place from the start around appropriate phone use and online safety.

There are some phones specifically designed for young children and teens. These have the basic aspects of a smart phone and look like a regular phone but have complete parental control as well as no internet connection and no social media apps. You can also limit screen time and look at their whole call and message history. These are probably good phones to start off with to introduce your child to using one safely and responsibly, particularly younger children.

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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