First smartphone under the tree? Get them off to the right start - right now!

This holiday season, many kids have only a single item on their wishlist: a smartphone. Should you give in to the pleading (“I neeeeeeed a phone!”) and the promises (“Of course you can trust me to be sensible!!!!!!”)? And if you do, what's the best way to support a healthy digital journey?

That first phone is a rite of passage for today’s kids. And it’s a milestone that’s happened at ever-younger ages. According to Finder's Parenting Report 2021, which surveyed 1,033 Aussie parents, over a third (35%) of kids under 12 now have a smartphone - a whopping 50% increase from just three years ago. 

And of those under-12s with phones, the average age for receiving it was just over 7.5 years old!

The study also found significant regional differences in early phone ownership. In New South Wales, nearly half (45%) of under-12s owned their own smartphone. That’s twice as many as in South Australia.

Over a third (35%) of Aussie kids under 12 now have a smartphone - a whopping 50% increase from just three years ago. 

According to figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the largest jump in phone ownership comes between the ages of 12 and 13. 76% of kids in this bracket own their phones, up from 33% of 10 to 11-year-olds. 

So what's the safest age?

But age alone should not be the deciding factor when it comes to smartphone ownership, experts agree - including the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

“It’s difficult to prescribe a precise chronological age when it’s safe and/or appropriate,” says Family Zone cyber expert Dr. Kristy Goodwin. “I recommend delaying the decision until you feel your child is emotionally mature and responsible." 

Are they responsible with their other belongings? Can they adhere to offline rules and boundaries? If not, their online behaviour is unlikely to be different. 

Remember, your child may be tech-savvy but they make lack the social and emotional skills required to safely use the device. 

Making the call

  1. Consider their emotional maturity before buying them a phone. You’re giving them a powerful tool that can do much more than take and receive phone calls.
  2. Is a voice-and-text-only phone - a.k.a. a dumbphone -  a better option? If they need to be in touch or if the phone is purely for safety reasons this may be your best bet. 
  3. At any rate, keep it simple. Kids lose things and drop them - constantly. Giving them the expensive phone of their dreams may be simply setting them up for failure. 
  4. Consider offering a first phone on a trial basis. This gives you a chance to test out those promises of safe and sensible use.
  5. Set up firm rules about how, what, when and where the phone can be used. A written contract that sets out your expectations, and your child's responsibilities, is the best first step. Family Zone has created a great one you can print at home. Download it here.
  6. Install strong, flexible parental controls that are age-appropriate for your child, to block adult content, limit social media and gaming, and manage study and bedtime use. 

With Family Zone, you can keep your children's screen-time healthy, on their new phone - and every device, everywhere.  

Create a home where your digital family can thrive, and start your free trial today.




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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online safety, first smartphone

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