When smartphones have replaced Legos and Barbie dolls as the first item on your child’s wish list, what’s a parent to do? You may ask yourself, when do I give my child a smartphone? Undoubtedly, arguments can be made on both sides – from promoting safety, peace of mind and keeping parents and kids connected to getting children addicted to technology and exposing them to the potentially harmful effects of social media.

These days, smartphones seem as vital as an appendage. We feel almost lost without them. While there is no doubt to their value and convenience – they serve as an important tool to help connect us to friends and family, keep us abreast of current events and allow us to instantly capture and share important moments in our lives – the question becomes, at what age do we allow our kids to have a phone of their own? This can be especially daunting for parents to address as our children see us attached to our phones on a daily – even hourly – basis.

So, as parent, how do we navigate these muddy waters? What is the appropriate age for a child to have a smartphone? According to a recent article in USA Today, the average age for a child to receive a smartphone has decreased from 12 to 10 years of age. And, while experts can’t agree on a magical number, most say that it ultimately comes down to a level of maturity. Despite the fact that many phones have security measures in place that can restrict access to certain features and allow parents to monitor their children’s activity, the most important thing you can do for your kids is have an open and honest conversation with them. Some excellent questions include: Why do they want or feel they need a phone? How do they plan on using it? Are they responsible with their personal belongings? Do they need to keep in touch for safety reasons? Do they need a smartphone or would a flip phone suffice? Would they be comfortable giving you their smartphone at any given moment?

Setting limits on phone time is also important – like family dinners or outings – as well as monitoring usage, being cognizant of what they are viewing and application downloads. Children need to be aware that a phone is a privilege and not a right and that technology and applications – like Facetime – can never really replace actual face time. Also of importance is being aware of how seductive these technologies can be and the impact social media can play in creating anxiety or depression in children. Ultimately, building trust, communicating your concerns and setting appropriate limits are essential in not only bridging the gap between your child and technology in a healthy way, but also forging a good and healthy relationship between you both as well.

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