Parenting Debate: When’s the Best Time to Give Your Kids Their First Smartphone?
If you have kids, you don’t need us to tell you that parenting is hard. Between the sleepless nights, temper tantrums and knowing how to answer the awkward questions, it can feel like a series of never-ending challenges. Technology can help, since it keeps the little ones entertained and there’s always Google for you to fall back on. But when should kids start exploring the world of technology on their own? Bill Gates famously didn’t let his kids own their own mobile phones until they were 14. Steve Jobs banned the iPad from his household when it launched.
Children in a country as developed as Singapore grow up around smartphones and start wanting their own from a very young age. Most parents hold off for a while, but it’s easy to start feeling conflicted. On one hand, you probably don’t want them to be glued to a screen all day or stumble across anything inappropriate online. Then again, they’ll be able to contact you in an emergency, discover new things and stop asking to borrow yours.
But as much as you might wonder about how long to wait before giving your kids a smartphone, how you give it to them may be more important than when it happens.
More about the stage, less about the age
It’s tempting to search for an exact age where it’s considered acceptable to buy a mobile phone for your child, but many experts agree it’s not that easy. The general sentiment is that it’s just as important to consider other factors like family circumstances, emotional maturity and whether they can be trusted to follow the rules. If you really want a rule of thumb to follow, psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng suggests waiting until they are 10 years of age to introduce supervised smartphone use. You can then consider granting full access once your child is 15 and has shown they can be trusted with the responsibility. Your child may put up a hell of a fight, but there’s a good chance they’re just feeling the peer pressure – they’ll make up for the lost time when they are old enough.
This is why Dr Lim suggests that you should let your mini-me use the phone under your supervision when they are aged 10 or older. Full phone access should only be granted when they are 15 and after they show maturity and restraint in their on- and offline behaviour.
Balancing wants and needs
Your child will probably want you to buy a mobile phone for them from a young age, but they won’t actually need it until they are much older. It’s a valuable chance to teach them the difference between wants and needs, even if you meet somewhere in the middle. Most importantly, parents should take the chance to talk about technology with their kids and explain the pros and cons. You won’t be able to control everything they do, so it’s better to help them take on the responsibility rather than drop them in the deep end without warning – because that’s the last thing you want to do.
Why the Family Plan is perfect for your child’s first smartphone
When you do decide to take the plunge and give your child a phone, it can feel a little daunting. We get it, because we’ve been there ourselves. That’s why the new Circles.Life Family Plan is designed to make life easy for parents. It’s not just a stress-free way to share data, bring every SIM under one bill and save along the way. With the Parent Control add-on, you get a range of special features designed to help you keep your kids safe as they use their smartphones.
Block Unwanted Websites
Use search filters or choose a preset to block malicious or inappropriate websites on your child’s phone.
Limit Screen Time
Set a cap to your kids’ data usage to help manage screen time.
See Their History
Remotely access family accounts to ensure no one is accessing harmful content.
Track Their Apps
Limit app downloads to control how they use their smartphone.
Transferring all your numbers to a Family Plan is a piece of cake (we’re not called the easiest telco to switch to in Singapore for nothing!), but don’t hesitate to drop into our Help Center for more information.
Carrie is a problem-solving adventurer at Circles.Life. While she’s off-duty, she wears many other hats: does photography that #SparkTheOrdinary at @carriesimitaiji, writes on her lifestyle blog carriesim.com, and spread body positivity on her Instagram account @carriesim.