What is the right age to give your kids their own device?

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Tech Talk Tuesday #49:What is the right age to give your kids their own device?

Yesterday I was talking to a mom in San Francisco who saw Screenagers this fall and she told me that she was dissapointed that I gave Tessa a phone in the end. She had seen my struggle with the issue through the movie but was really hoping I wouldn't cave. This mom has a 14-year old and has been very resolute about not giving her daughter a phone. Her daughter takes the public bus around the city and walks all over town by herself but she doesn't have a phone. She asked me, "Why not just say 'no'?" 

I've had this question from other parents and thought about this issue while I was making the film. This mom has seen the benefits of holding out on giving her daughter a phone. She told me she looks out the window on bus rides and she engages directly with her friends when she wants to connect. Her daughter recently was at a cafe and noticed everyone was looking down and then she told her mom that she was so happy that she had not given her a phone yet. However, the mom does wonder about the effects this rule has on her daughter’s social life. She knows she is missing out on group chats with the volleyball team and that she is left out of some social functions. The mom has had a lot of backlash from her daughter's friends parents who feel judged by her because they gave their children a phone.

My feeling is that it is great to hold off as long as possible, but the key is when, or if, you do decide to hand them their own device that you have successfully practiced setting limits. The other thing is that you have to weigh in on what the impact is of this battle -- how is it affecting your relationship with your child? During the tween and teen years it is developmentally appropriate for our kids to connect to a new tribe and many are deepening these relationships online.

I was fascinated by a new study that looked at kids from 0 to age 4 that found 75% of them own their own device such as an iPad, but 7% already own a cellphone. 

This week for Tech Talk Tuesday let’s talk about what we think is a good age for kids to get a device. Even if they have a device this is a great conversation to help get them thinking about these issues.

  • What are the pros and cons of kids and teens having smartphones?
  • What age do you think a kid or teen should get their own smartphone? Tablet or computer? 
  • What do you think about toddlers using an iPad or smartphone?