/ Parenting, Technology

Should children own smartphones?

Child using a smartphone

These days, owning a smartphone is very much the norm. But what about young children? Do kids just out of primary school really need a flashy iPhone or Blackberry?

When I turned 12 years old, I became the proud owner of a Nokia 3310. But nowadays it’s been banished to a box in the bottom of my wardrobe and replaced with a shiny iPhone 4.

While I love having a smartphone, I would never have dreamt of owning such an expensive device when I was 12. My 10-year-old sister on the other hand, has already been through two, a Nokia Lumia and a Blackberry.

What’s wrong with simple phones for kids?

I don’t disagree with kids owning a phone, quite the contrary; I think it’s important that they have a way to get in touch, should they need to. But does it warrant buying them a phone that costs hundreds of pounds? Last time I checked, the simplest and cheapest of phones still sent texts and made calls.

Granted, life as a 10-year-old today is very different compared to 20 years ago. Technology has advanced at an impressive rate, so it’s only natural for it to be introduced into our lives at a much earlier age.

But as soon as one child at school gets a smartphone, they all want one. When I was at school, kids were more obsessed with Pokémon cards than phones, which in my opinion is a less harmful interest.

‘A 12-year-old with a smartphone? No way!’

Is constant access to the internet and messaging really a good thing at such a young age? And then there’s the issue of money, are parents teaching their kids the value of money by buying them such expensive items? Next thing you know they’ll be wanting the latest Apple MacBook for Christmas…

The debate has already kicked off on our sister site Tech Daily, with Kclark commenting:

‘A 12-year-old with a smartphone… NO WAY!

‘Very few 12-year-olds have the concept of the value of money. It’s just about what they want and being cool. As parents, it’s our job to teach them. I see parents yelling and screaming when they see high phone bills, grades slipping and other unacceptable behaviour, but yet go out and get that kid the latest phone. Sorry my step daughter (12) will be getting a simple phone, no smartphone till she can pay for it.’

So, do you think children should be the proud owners of smartphones? And if so, when’s the right time for them to get one?

From what age is it appropriate for a child to have their own smartphone?

15-17 years old (31%, 333 Votes)

13-14 years old (26%, 280 Votes)

Never - they should be over 18 years old (25%, 272 Votes)

10-12 years old (15%, 156 Votes)

7-9 years old (2%, 20 Votes)

Under 6 years old (1%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,069

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Morag says:
12 August 2013

My kids are home educated and don’t care about peer pressure. It’s not about being cool. They have iPhones (our old cast offs) for educational use and for safety reasons. They have disabilities and their phones allow them independence they could not otherwise have.

I think the point about independence is important – nowadays it’s useful for children to be able to be in touch (and, perhaps more importantly, for parents to be in touch with their children!). But I think my main worry about young children having expensive smartphones would be the risk of them getting lost or damaged when the kids are out and about.

Morag says:
12 August 2013

That doesn’t worry us as they are 1. old phones of ours and 2. we can track them. One of our kids had her phone stolen recently but we were able to get it back as we knew exactly where it was (down to a few metres). 🙂

Ah – it hadn’t occurred to me you could track them – v helpful feature!

MetalSamurai says:
12 August 2013

Kids should be happy to have a Noah’s Ark, a spinning top and a skipping rope. That’s more than enough amusement. And they can always get their quill out to write a letter to their friends when they want to keep in touch.

Really. It’s the 21st century. Do you expect kids to wait by the phone in the hall or go and knock on each others door to ask if they’re coming out to play? I’d have killed for tools like email, SMS, Facebook etc when I was young (didn’t know enough people with CB radios).

When I was a kid, it was an ordeal to knock on friends’ doors and be confronted by unfamiliar adults. They were invariably very nice and the experience did a lot to boost my confidence.

I don’t have kids, so I will not offer an opinion about when they should be given phones.

While I can see the merits of both ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments, on balance I tend to think children should be able to have a smart phone from the time they go up to secondary school. I suppose those children whose parents don’t agree or can’t afford to equip them with one might feel disadvantaged. In most cases an ordinary mobile phone is probably sufficient until age sixteen – it provides basic communication and emergency contact without features that can get them into trouble, but many adolescents are intelligent and responsible enough to be able to use a smart phone beneficially.

A £30 phone will do calls and messages, access the internet, take photos – enough for children and to keep them in touch – stick to PAYG . Demanding other phones is responding to peer pressure, like other expensive branded goods. If they really want one, let them save for it themselves from birthday, Christmas, paper round so when they have it they understand it’s value. They may see that having their own laptop is better value for money.

I am quite able to see some potential good points for smart phones for non-adults. I suspect rather unlike Lord Reith, where the idea that the television would become a medium for the cheapest and stupidest of programmes probably never entered his mind, I have grave doubts about the Internet and children.

A mobile phone, sans camera, has very little in the way of downsides and covers the important part of communication in emergencies. The likelihood of being mugged for it or running up large phone bills – after all it should be paid from the childs pocket money – are obvious.

A smart phone is an invitation for sexting, mugging , Twitter addiction, Facebook follies, and conspicuous consumerism. Not to mention potential hearing damage from continual wearing of ear plugs as you listen to your MP3 collection.




Now are children basically small adults or developing young with limited reasoning ability? You decide.

I think they need to grow into the responsibility of having an iphone. There are too many distractions on it and remember that friends often think it fun to “rinse” a mobile of credit. It also makes them a target for mugging.

Besides – I don’t have one – yet. I’m waiting for an cast-off. I have a Nokia – which I bought new and which I haven’t used the camera on yet – previous to that I had an even older Nokia cast-off.

well for starters i think that kids who are under the age of 13, who have smart phones of their own are more than likely going to get in to social networking. Which is wrong as you need to be 13 to sign up. Even then I think 13 year old kids are slightly irresponsible when it comes to this as they could see things they are not meant to see. Also smart phones can be expensive, and are kids able to look after a phone.
Although when kids get to a certain age and going out with friends and things its also a good idea for them to have a phone, not necessarily a smart phone, just some way to keep in touch with the kids.