Is my child ready for a smartphone? A readiness guide

By: Beatrice Moise
Discover key factors to consider, such as their personality, level of development and level of maturity, with insights from a cognitive specialist and parenting coach.


I get this question a lot from my clients: When is my child ready for a smartphone? My answer: It’s not only about the specific age. Because kids are still developing, it’s essential that they form a sense of identity outside of technology—not with technology. That means parents need to understand each child’s unique level of readiness for the responsibility that comes with owning a smartphone.

Here are a few ways to assess that readiness, based on personality, developmental stage and maturity.

Personality: Who are they?

Your child’s personality traits can impact their readiness for a smartphone. Here’s a brief explanation of those personality traits.

Open to experience:  These children go with the flow and have a strong sense of imagination and curiosity. They may be more adaptable to technology and use the phone to make videos and short stories, but they may need ongoing parental guidance with time limits on phone use.

Conscientious: Children who are more organized and responsible may adapt more easily to taking care of the phone, like keeping it charged, and using calendars and timers.

Extroverted: Children who thrive on interactions with friends may see the smartphone as a way to be even more connected.

Agreeable: These children tend to trust others and the rules you give them. But because they’re so trusting, they can be naïve, and they’ll need early and ongoing conversation about digital literacy and digital safety.


It is essential that they form a sense of identity outside of technology – not with technology


Anxious: Children with heightened anxiety may need more parental oversight with their first smartphone. With this trait, maturity comes later, so it’s best to wait until the child has a better sense of regulating their own emotions. Or they can show readiness with the tips below.

Most children have more than one of these traits. For example, my son Jake is 12, and he’s a blend of open and agreeable. Abby is 10, and she’s a blend of conscientious and neurotic. Regardless of their personality traits, here’s how I knew they were ready for the responsibility of a smartphone:

  • They could follow the house rules about tech and could easily keep devices charged and stored in a safe place.
  • They could put away the tablet or game without a fuss.
  • They didn’t ask to use a device again when they needed to do something else, like begin homework or set the table.

Developmentally: Do they understand what tech is for?

If you give a baby a smartphone, they may instinctively put it in their mouth. A 5-year-old might draw on a tablet, thinking it’s a coloring book or a piece of paper. To gauge your child’s phone readiness developmentally, consider the following:

Can your child explain what a smartphone is, how it’s used and its purpose?

Do they understand that using tech has a time and place, and that it should not be a constant presence?

Can they explain why they want a smartphone? For example, to stay connected to family and friends through phone calls, texts and video chats.

Do they understand that using too much technology can affect a person’s anxiety and mental health?

Does their technology use affect their sleep habits? Are they staying up too late to watch movies or other screens?

Maturity level: Can they follow the rules?
Kids make mistakes. Their ability to talk about those mistakes shows an increased maturity level, and it establishes trust in the parent-child relationship. This maturity also plays a key role in their readiness for a smartphone. If they’re struggling to own up to their mistakes at home and school, it could be even more of a struggle if they’re given technology. Consider these signs of increased maturity before making the smartphone decision:

When they make a mistake, they admit to it easily.

They’re following rules at school.

They’re also following rules at home.

What I did with my own kids
My kids’ first connected device was the Gizmo Watch 3. When it was time to decide if my kids were ready for a phone, I kept the previous guidelines in mind.

My son (open and agreeable) was allowed to have a smartphone—with calling and texting only—at the age of 10. Jake uses technology to enhance his play experiences. He takes the phone outside to play games or watch movies. It’s easy for him to put the phone down because he loves nature and connecting with people one-on-one.

My daughter (conscientious and anxious) was ready for a smartphone with calling and text at age 11, with heavy monitoring. Abby’s a solid rule-follower but gets easily overwhelmed with information. I knew that if I relied on her ability to follow the rules, she could stick to them, but she might struggle with how quickly information would be accessible from the phone.

Neither of my kids has access to social media right now. As parents, we approve every new contact, game (offline only) or app and have a strict time limit of two hours per day, including weekends.

My kids are both still very young and learning about who they are, and at this point, I want to ensure I’m giving them a solid understanding of healthy boundaries and respect for technology. I hope these guidelines can help you do the same for your children.

When they’re ready for the responsibility of a phone, block apps, websites, inappropriate content and more with Smart Family.

About the author:

Beatrice (Bea) Moise, M.S., BCCS., is a Board-Certified Cognitive Specialist, parenting coach, national speaker, and author of Our Neurodivergent Journey. Her UNIQUE parenting channel on YouTube is dedicated to educating individuals on neurodiversity.

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