Monday, March 28, 2016

Best Age for a Kid to Get a Cellphone with Internet Access

February 2016 Grade 5-12 Parent Survey
One of the most frequent questions I get asked when I speak around Minnesota with parents about kids and technology is, "What's the best age for a kid to get a cellphone with Internet access?" Last month, we randomly sampled our grade 5-12 students' parents and asked this very question. 528 parents completed the survey.

Almost one fourth (23.3%) of parents think that waiting until high school (grade 9-12) is best.

One third of parents believe that Grade 6 is the appropriate time for students to start having a cellphone with Internet access; 62% overall think middle school is when to start (grade 6-8).

Only 13.6% believe that it is appropriate for elementary students to have a cellphone with Internet access.
Less than 1% (0.8%) believe it is not appropriate.
This topic/question has changed over the past 10 years. It used to be the kids would get cell phone that could make calls and parents would ask me when their child should have text messaging, too. Some parents still began by getting their child a simple phone with just a text messaging plan, but many parents today skip this altogether and their child just starts with a smartphone with full Internet access. Often times the phone is a hand-me-down from a parent or older sibling.

Nearly one third (31.3%) of parents have a filter on their child's cell phone that blocks inappropriate content.

February 2016 Grade 5-12 Parent Survey
Before giving that first phone with internet access to a child or teen, parents would be well-served to pause and intentionally plan for safety. Providing any cellular data plan means giving your child the keys to unfiltered internet access--the good, the bad and the dangerous content of the world wide web. Most parents would agree: Kids shouldn't have unfiltered access to the internet. Personally, my kids received a phone with filtered internet access when they turned 12. We use and I have recommended Curbi in previous posts. I'm willing to pay $7/month for the comfort and peace of mind in knowing that my child's connection to the Internet on their personal device is filtered. Parents of younger children with smartphones may want to consider the built-in web filtering options of Restrictions right in the Apple iPhone or Android device for free, but this often blocks so much content that older students won't like it and complain. Restrictions was the most common solution listed by parents in our survey when we asked them what product they used for a smartphone filter.

“Everybody has one.”
“Everyone else has....” Perhaps the most persuasive words in the English language, “everyone else” has been the rallying cry for children trying to convince their parents to allow something for decades. Your child may tell you that they are the only one without a cellphone or perhaps without an iPhone. S/he may state that everyone but her/him has Internet access. Or perhaps your child says that no one else's parents have put a filter on their smartphone. This data proves that is not the case; even some upperclassmen don't have phones with Internet access, and of those that do, many are filtered. 

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  1. Thanks for sharing Dave!!
    Diana Sanchez
    Speech Pathologist
    New York City

  2. Thank you for sharing this information! I'm sure it's helpful for parents to know what other parents are doing. And the recommendations for filters are very helpful too.