Smart Phones: What’s the Right Age?

By Mark Parisi at

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed today by Gia Valenti as a part of her “Moxie Minutes with Gia” podcast. Some of the feedback was interesting- including one listener who questioned why I did not take a stand on “what age is appropriate to have a smart phone”.

I have long held that there is no concrete answer to this question, the variables are considerable. How will the child use it? In what capacity? How socially active are they? What’s their maturity level? etc.

Saying that one particular age is “okay” implies that everyone matures at the same rate (which they don’t) and that every child’s situation is identical (which they’re not). So since I don’t advocate one *perfect age* for getting a smart phone, I thought I would put together some resources for parents who are trying to research this exact issue.

Regardless, conversations need to be had about the possibilities and pitfalls that a smart phone provides. Like anything else – they are a tool – how they are used is what makes a difference. I’ve long held that giving a child a smart phone without media literacy-related conversations is like giving a kid a Ferrari without driver’s ed. Parents know their child better than anyone else – they don’t need some university instructor like me telling them when it is and is not okay.

So here are some resources for those who might be currently wrestling with this question:

Web MD has a great write-up that is balanced and straightforward. Note though that their post was written in 2012 so although it might be balanced, it is almost also most certainly outdated.

Common Sense Media is one of my favorite sites for all things media-related. They’re rational and don’t take the protectionist view of media. Their post is similar to WebMD’s and if you’d like a peek at the teenage mind, read some of the article’s comments from tweens desperate for smart phones. 😉

Today’s Parent actually has an age-by-age article about kids and smart phones that many might find useful. This particular article brings up the addictive nature of the smart phone, which affects adults as well.

Inc’s interview with Bill Gates uncovers the fact that his children did not receive smart phones until they were 14. He refers to it as “the new coming of age ceremony”.

And here’s Psychology Today weighing in on the topic: saying that it’s a “want vs need” conversation and that there is no magic age that works for every child.

It’s validating to know that these sources back up my resistance to claiming that one perfect age for getting a smart phone is perfect for everyone. It’s a personal, family decision. My only advice is to encourage as much conversation as possible with your child when the time comes.

How do they intend to use the smart phone, and how does the smart phone intend to use THEM?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *