Back to School: How to Help decide If Your Kids are Ready for a Phone

Cara Fields

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

“Can I have a phone?” 

It’s a question many parents get around this time of year. With kids headed back to the classroom soon, a smartphone often tops back-to-school shopping wish lists. But is your child ready for a device? More importantly, are you ready for the responsibilities that come with your child having a cell phone?   

Our kids are more connected than ever before, which adds a whole new dynamic to parenting. On top of worrying about screen time, we have to keep up with the tech and social media our children are using, a concern our U.S. Surgeon General has written about.  

majority of parents are concerned their children are spending too much time on screens, and are turning to doctors and medical professionals for advice or information. In fact, two-thirds (66%) of parents say parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago, with many citing technology as a reason why.     

When it comes to parenting in the digital age, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to making decisions related to media and technology. For example, for some families, if a child spends a lot of time away from home with friends or doing extracurricular activities, getting a device for a child may provide peace of mind to a parent. A quick text to check in now and then, and things likeAT&T’s Secure Family App that can pinpoint a child’s location at any time, can mean the parent will appreciate the device as much as the kid.   

Which is probably why, more than half of children in the U.S. will have a cell phone by the time they’re 11 and 69% have one at age 12, according to Common Sense Media. However, experts agree that this decision is not just about age. It’s about your child’s developmental maturity and your family’s values. It’s also about the steps you can take to help your child develop a healthy relationship with technology, starting with the responsible use of their first device.  

Each child and family is different. That’s why AT&T teamed up with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to develop thePhoneReady Questionnaire, a free 10-minute quiz to help parents decide whether they and their child are ready for a cell phone. 

The questionnaire also shares information on how parents can help prepare their child for this responsibility, including important steps to aid your child in developing healthy digital habits for a safe and positive online experience. 

If you don’t feel ready to let your child have a phone yet, that’s OK. The online tool offers useful tips and resources to help you prepare for when the time is right. Check in again when you feel you and your child may be ready.  

The questionnaire is one of many free resources available to any parent on the AT&T ScreenReady website; others include: 

·  Instructions for using parental controls on mobile devices, TVs, the internet and gaming consoles. 

·  Parent guides that can answer questions about social media, common apps, games, and streaming apps. 

·  The ability to create a personalized Family Media Plan to help set media priorities that matter most to your family. 

·  Tips from experts on good digital parenting.   

Adding a cell phone to your back-to-school shopping list is a personal decision for each family, but hopefully with some tools and resources to help, the choice will be a little easier for your family to make.