Kids and Smartphones: When is the Perfect Time for Them to Own One?

Kids and Smartphones

Last night, I participated in another showing of Screenagers. This time, it was presented at Hillel Academy in Tampa with co-sponsorship by Tampa Day School and Keystone Prep High School with over 100 people in attendance. I led the discussion following the movie and one of the questions that was asked was, “At what age is right or best to give your child a smartphone?”

Deciding When the Time is Right

Not having an exact age to offer and being well aware of the challenges smartphones come with, my answer was that there would need to be extenuating circumstances to warrant giving one to an elementary school-aged child. Some may be ready in middle school, but others might need to wait until high school.

Use your technology in a mindful or deliberate way, not as a time-filler. Click To Tweet

Much depends on the social and emotional development of your child and whether they’re showing good development of their “self-control” muscle. Resisting distractions and staying on track toward a goal are two great indicators of a child controlling his or her impulses. Think about whether they can delay gratification, get their homework done before watching Netflix and resist the urge to eat a whole package of Oreos in one sitting, for example.

The age-old psychological test about delaying gratification is to place a young child at a table with a lone marshmallow and see if they can go without eating it for 15 minutes with the promise of more marshmallows if they’re successful. Those who were able to wait for the larger reward ended up earning better grades in school and had better relationships, health and more professional success.

Screenagers on Good Morning America

On the morning of Tuesday, November 14th on Good Morning America, there was a segment devoted to this exact question. There’s a new movement sweeping the country for parents to “wait until 8th“ grade before giving kids smartphones.

Regardless of the age that your kids get a phone, there are a few tips that you may want to incorporate into a contract with them:

  • Meal times with family are device free – but it’s okay to use one before and after. These are called “tech breaks” and can help with the separation from said device!
  • Turn off notifications so that you’re not constantly bothered by interruptions.
  • Use your technology in a mindful or deliberate way, not as a time-filler.
  • Car trips shorter than 30 minutes are device-free. Use this as a time to talk to each other, daydream, listen to music together or just sit quietly.
  • Devices and people need to be in separate rooms at night – for the sake of the quality of our sleep. It’s too tempting and disruptive to have a phone within arm’s reach at night. And for kids, nighttime wanderings on the Internet can lead to trouble.
  • Try to resist the urge to check your phone every few minutes. When we do this, our brains are being “pinged” with brain chemicals that strengthen the need to check more and more frequently.
Meal times with family are device free – but it’s okay to use one before and after. Click To Tweet

Helping You Make the Right Choice

In this day and age, making the right choices in parenting may require some extra work and even outside advice. When it comes to a child’s need to own a smartphone, we may think that there’s no harm in it, but there are several things to consider before having the final say. Our psychologists in Tampa can show you what these are and how they can affect your child’s home and school life. If you need a bit of guidance with this, then contact us today for more information or to set up an appointment.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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