Should children have phones?

Smartphones have become integral to our daily lives, with almost every family member owning one. The pressure to own a smartphone is immense, even for young children who may not have a genuine need for it.

Jan 9, 2024 - 16:59
Should children have phones?

We are currently in a digital age where technology is becoming a societal trend. Technological advancements have brought both benefits and challenges, significantly impacting our lives. Technology has transformed our world into a global village, providing access to information from faraway countries through smartphones. With a smartphone, one can engage in various activities, from social media interactions to online shopping, banking, school payments, and watching movies.

Smartphones have become integral to our daily lives, with almost every family member owning one. The pressure to own a smartphone is immense, even for young children who may not have a genuine need for it. Whether it's to stay in touch with friends or for entertainment purposes, parents are often compelled to consider whether to provide their child with a smartphone. Regardless of the reasons a child gives, it's crucial for parents to evaluate the validity of providing a smartphone at that particular time.

Some parents overlook the potential negative effects of smartphones on their children. They may not consider why their child insists on having a smartphone or whether it's appropriate for them to have one at their age, irrespective of the reasons.

Therefore, the decision of whether a child should have a phone or not requires careful consideration before handing one over.

Age and maturity level:

Parents need to assess if their child is mature enough to handle a phone responsibly. For instance, what would a 7-12-year-old need a smartphone for? How many friends does the child have that necessitate owning a phone? Why can’t the child contact his/her friends on your phone? Have parents considered the distractions and potential dangers a smartphone may pose? Is the child capable of using the phone responsibly without supervision? Do they have the self-control to handle any threats or dangers associated with the phone?

The purpose of the phone:

The crucial aspect is not whether the child needs a phone, but rather the purpose it will serve. Parents should not simply give in to a child's demands for a phone without validating the reasons behind it. If the purpose does not justify a critical need, then it may not be necessary at that time. This applies across all age groups. Even if the child is in high school and wants a phone because they believe they are old enough or everyone else has one, parents need to make an informed decision. If it's for social media, parents should be cautious about the child's interactions and the content they engage with. The reason for having a phone should be significant, such as for safety in emergencies communication and interactions, development of language, educational purposes or for trending information. However, parents should monitor the phone's usage and ensure it meets the intended purpose. Setting guidelines and restrictions is essential for the child's safety and well-being.


The timing of giving a child a phone is crucial. While the child may have valid reasons for wanting a phone, parents should evaluate the risks and opportunities at that particular moment. If the risks outweigh the benefits, the child can do without a phone. Financial stability, priority of the child's needs, and potential risks and benefits should all be considered before providing a phone to a child. The smartphone may become a distraction from schoolwork and lead to addictions that could affect the child's performance in various aspects of life.

The mental health of the child:

Children often struggle with phones because, at their age and understanding, they may lack self- control over phone usage. Those who use phones for social media may face challenges such as cyberbullying, sexting, nightmares, distractions, stress and anxiety, excessive screen time, and exposure to inappropriate images and information including pornographic content, and language among others.

Most children’s brains are still too young to manage the content they consume from phones daily and therefore this may affect their normal brain development and can affect their mental health.

Parental controls

Regardless of any age group, it is your responsibility to monitor what a child has on the phone. These days children seem to be more intelligent and technology savvy than their parents. Nevertheless, ensure you know what transpires in their online lives and what kind of information they access. Smartphones can limit the apps, movies, Tv shows they can watch, and social networks they are on. With unfiltered internet, a child can watch anything innocently but when it leads them to danger.

All in all, there is no specific age a child should have a phone but it depends on the purpose it serves. However, if you were to reward your child with that smartphone, at least a child should be thirteen years and above but you must monitor how it is used responsibly. Establish clear guidelines and boundaries for their use.

The writer is the Executive Director of Hope Regeneration Africa, parenting coach, marriage counsellor and founder – Men of Purpose mentorship program

Dickson Tumuramye Executive Director - Hope Regeneration Africa, Writer, Child Advocate, Parenting Coach, Marriage Counselor, & Founder - Men of Purpose Mentorship Programme