Big Kids, Parenting

At what age do you hand over the mobile phone?

Carla McConnell by Carla McConnell
April 27th, 2017

My 7-year-old daughter is constantly asking what age she is allowed to have things. When can I get my ears pierced? When can I stay at home alone? When can I get a mobile phone? Bloody hell child, do you think I’ve scheduled in the next ten years…right now I’m working on getting through this parenting gig day by day.

My answer is always 12-years-old, of course I reserve the right to change my mind at anytime, but I’m pretty sure once she hits 12 I’ll be handing over the mobile. Mainly because this will be when she starts high school and will be travelling further distances so I will want to make sure she is contactable ALL the time. At the moment I know where she is at all times and with adults that can contact me if needed, so a phone is totally unnecessary, although she does have friends her age that already have them.

It sometimes blows me away that most of us spent our childhood without mobile phones, roaming the streets and making it home in time for dinner. Thinking back, my mum NEVER let me go anywhere without 40 cents to use the public phone box. (Writing that made me feel very old).

Bill Gates recently revealed that he refused to let his three children have a mobile phone til they were 14-years-old, which is considered pretty old these days, especially from the man who created modern computing. Bill’s three kids are now aged between 14 and 20 years old and have been subjected to some pretty strict phone and screen time rules.

Bll and Melinda Gates and their three kids

Bll and Melinda Gates and their three kids

In Australia, one in every five 10-year-olds is already using a mobile phone, and most teenagers own a smartphone. Bill and his wife Melinda banned screentime after dinner (and no smartphones until after 14) in a bid to encourage more family talks and better sleep times for their kids. While parenting experts have applauded Bill’s decision, some parents have said 14-years-old just isn’t realistic.

I must admit I get freaked out by my kids having access to social media and the internet through their phones. I LOVE that I grew up in a time where my adolescence wasn’t documented on Facebook and I didn’t know every party I wasn’t invited too. However, my kids will grow up in a different world and I worry that by banning them from these things much longer then their peers, they will use other means to access technology, and I won’t be able to guide them through that minefield.

Bill Gates is a pretty clever man so if he made that decision I’m sure he’d given it a lot of thought and talked it through with his kids. For me, the mobile phone will be handed over when it’s a matter of safety and right now 12-years-old sees like a good benchmark; however I might just have the internet access restricted on the phone for a little bit longer.

I think this one is a totally personal decision based on your circumstances and whether your kids need to contact you, after all 40 cents in the schoolbag won’t cut it anymore.

What do you think is an appropriate age for kids to have a mobile phone?