Be Well with TCL: Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

According to research done by, on average, a child gets their first smartphone at 10-years-old. That same study found that by age 12, 50% percent of kids have Facebook and Instagram accounts. And now that school’s back in session, your kids may be badgering you more about being added to your cell phone plan. That begs the question, how do you know when your child is ready for a phone? In this Be Well with TCL, we sat down with Author and Blogger Galit Breen to help answer that question.

Galit is the author of “Kindness Wins,” a guide to teaching out kids how to be kind online. She says every parent should ask themselves 5 questions to see if their child is ready for a phone.

1. Are they asking for a phone?
This obviously doesn’t mean to go out and buy them one. It means that this topic is already on their minds and you want to get in there with the conversation.

When to start the technology conversation?
Galit says start the conversation earlier than you think. Human development theorists say that kids’ brains are actually wired to listen to you up until age 9. Between of the ages of 9 and 11, things are starting to shift to put more value on peers. Age 12 to 13 – the shift has been made. That means if you start the conversations at that 8-11 “tween” age, you’ll catch them while they’re still developmentally wired to listen to you.

2. Do they “need” a phone?
Galit says there are so many good arguments for the fact that no one really needs a phone. But there are a lot of really good reasons for kids today or modern kids to have a phone. Here are a few of them…

  • activities that end late — are they in activities that have them out late?
  • carpools — do they get into anyone else’s car?
  • new friends — are they spending time at friends’ houses who are new to either one of you?

3. Do they talk to you openly and honestly?
Galit says this is actually one of the most important questions to have a “yes” to. If they’re already being super honest with you and super open with you about what’s going on in their lives, then you’re in a great place to start teaching them how have a healthy relationship with technology and lay the foundation that this is a topic that you talk about.

4. Do their friends already have phones or devices?
If their friends already have phones, that means that all of this is already a part of their life. Galit says this means the online world is already impacting them and you want to get in on that! This is when you can influence their thinking about how to have a healthy relationship with technology.

5. Are you ready to dig into those conversations to teach them what they need to know?
Galit says what happens if…

  • they accidentally — or on purpose! — click into inappropriate content
  • a stranger follows them on Instagram or even just texts them
  • someone asks them for an inappropriate photo

She encourages parents to figure out what you want them to do or not do in each case and then communicate that!
You can find free tools, including a Digital Kids Checklist for Moms, on Galit’s Blog These Little Waves.

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