Teen Health Question of the Month

Question: When is the right time to give a kid a phone?

Answer: Recently, my 10 years-old (who doesn’t have a phone) got separated from us while on an evening outing by bike in Amsterdam. After over an hour of frantic biking and calls to neighbors and friends, we finally were reunited. It turns out he had gone off on a different path and was waiting for us there. One of my son’s first questions shortly thereafter was: “When can I get a phone?” Clearly, there’s no perfect time. Much depends on where you live, your community and school, as well as your child’s peer group, needs for travel, and level of maturity and responsibility. It’s also worth considering whether your child is likely to spend all his time on their phone – on social media, for example – instead of doing homework, spending time with friends and family, or practicing an instrument, for example.

As a pediatrician, I think it’s okay to delay giving your child a phone, especially with what we know about brain development and impulse control. That said, many of the boys in my son’s class have phones already. One more tip: I suggest starting your child off with a simple flip phone first, before moving onto a more sophisticated phone, with clear rules regarding use of social media, monitoring, sexting, and pornography. These articles provide some good additional tips to consider:



Reader question: When do you think is the right time to give a kid a phone?