Chicago — Cellphones are a popular gift during the holiday season, but the debate remains: What’s the best age for your child’s first phone?
Craighton and Emily Berman are considering getting their 12-year-old son, Henry, a cellphone. He’s only allowed one hour of screen time per day on the computer.
“My wife and I have been kind of struggling with it,” Craighton Berman said. “Because there’s a lot packed into that phone. We all know digital technology and social media kind of destroys us. So I’m just trying to figure out how to destroy him a little less.”
According to Common Sense Media, 42% of kids have a smartphone at 10 years old. By the time they’re 14, 91% have phones.
Catherine Pearlman, the author of “First Phone: A Child’s Guide to Digital Responsibility, Safety and Etiquette,” says parents should use a phone that allows them to limit features.
“It’s developing habit sooner,” she said. “But it’s also learning a little bit at a time, rather than getting your first phone at 13-14 [years old] fully loaded and then trying to learn everything all at once.”
Devorah Heitner, who runs workshops on kids and phones, says parents need to ask themselves some questions.
“Is your kid impulsive? Are they going to blow up their life with a few angry texts?” Heitner said. “Is your kid able to be honest with you and accountable?”
In the months before giving a kid their first phone, Heitner says, discuss boundaries with your child and role play to teach them good phone manners.
“What would you do if you were on a group text and everyone was saying, ‘Let’s restart the group text without Mary?'” Heitner said of a possible scenario. “Because then you’ll have a sense of what their discernment is.”
Emily Berman said their son, Henry, is a “very responsible young man.”
“Given the extra responsibility of helping by walking his brother home from school, it just seemed — I didn’t really think about the age. It was just the right time,” she said of their decision to give him a phone.
Henry said he’s “a little bit excited and nervous.”