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Should I get my 9 year old a phone?

In today’s technology-driven world, many parents face the difficult question of whether or not to provide their young child with their first cell phone. With most kids getting their first phones between the ages of 10 and 12, deciding if a 9 year old is ready for the responsibility can be a challenging call. There are good arguments on both sides of the issue. Here is an in-depth look at the factors to consider when deciding if your 9 year old is ready for their own mobile device.

The benefits of giving a 9 year old a cell phone

There are many potential advantages that come along with giving a 9 year old their own phone:

  • Staying in touch – A cell phone allows you to easily stay in contact with your child and vice versa. Your child can reach you if needed.
  • Safety – Cell phones give you the ability to check in on your child’s location and ensure they are safe.
  • Emergency preparedness – If an emergency situation arises, your child will have a way to reach help.
  • Independence – A phone gives your kid more freedom to be independent and active without you hovering over them.
  • Learning opportunity – Using a phone responsibly can teach important life skills like time management and digital literacy.

Many parents feel more at ease knowing they can easily connect with their child at any time. Kids also enjoy the sense of maturity and independence that comes with having their own device.

The potential risks of phones for 9 year olds

However, there are also some downsides to be aware of if you provide your 9 year old with a phone:

  • Distraction – Phones can negatively impact focus and attention spans.
  • Inappropriate content – It’s difficult to completely control what kids are exposed to on the internet.
  • Social media pressures – Social platforms can lead to bullying, comparison, and unrealistic expectations.
  • Sleep disruption – Screen time before bed can interfere with healthy sleep habits.
  • Overuse – It’s easy for phone usage to become excessive, replacing face-to-face interaction.

These risks are why many parents hold off until a child is a bit older before allowing unlimited access to a phone.

Key factors to consider

When making your decision about getting your 9 year old a phone, here are some important factors to take into account:

Your child’s maturity level

Consider your individual child’s responsibility and temperament. Are they generally good at following rules and guidelines you set? Do they exhibit self-control and make smart decisions for their age? The more mature and trustworthy your 9 year old is, the more prepared they may be for a phone.

Your family’s needs

Think about your family’s lifestyle and scheduling. Do you and your child spend a lot of time apart where communication would be helpful? Do after school activities make coordinating pickups tricky? If your family could significantly benefit from your child having a phone, it may tip the scales.


Evaluate if your child is ready to safely navigate potential phone risks like digital strangers and inappropriate websites. Have you had ongoing conversations about internet safety and responsible use? Is your child generally rule-following when it comes to technology like computers and tablets?

Your involvement

Consider how involved you are prepared to be with your child’s phone use. Are you willing to put in time to research child safety apps, set screen time limits, monitor activity, and have frequent discussions about appropriate use? Your hands-on guidance can help mitigate potential downsides.

Best practices if providing a phone

If you decide to get a phone for your 9 year old, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Set clear rules and expectations about use and behavior.
  • Utilize parental control apps and kid-friendly browsers.
  • Agree on appropriate time limits for phone and app usage.
  • Monitor their activity through access to accounts and chat history.
  • Lead by example with your own healthy phone habits.
  • Have regular conversations about online safety.
  • Avoid using the phone as an electronic babysitter.
  • Use backup passcodes and enable location tracking.

Staying involved, open communication, and smart monitoring can help your child benefit from the technology while avoiding pitfalls.

The alternatives

If you decide your 9 year old isn’t quite ready for their own phone yet, there are some good alternatives to consider instead:

  • Basic/smart watch – Allows calling without full internet access.
  • Kid-friendly phone – No internet but allows calling approved contacts.
  • Walkie talkies – Good for short distance communication.
  • Location tracker – Provides you their location without a full phone.
  • Tablet – Can be set up with restrictions and parent controls.
  • Shared family phone – Allows contact without the risks of solo ownership.

These transitional options allow increased flexibility and responsibility while minimizing concerns about maturity or safety.

The pros and cons of phones for 9 year olds

Here is a summary of the key pros and cons to weigh when deciding about a first phone:

Pros Cons
  • Stay in touch with your child
  • Monitor your child’s location and safety
  • Ability to call for emergency help
  • Foster independence
  • Teach responsibility
  • Distraction from schoolwork
  • Exposure to inappropriate content
  • Cyberbullying and social media pressures
  • Disruption of healthy sleep
  • Risk of overuse or addiction

Recent surveys on phone ownership

Recent survey data provides insight into phone ownership patterns among children in the 9-10 age range:

Survey Year Age of First Phone Ownership
Influent Survey 2019 10 years old
Verizon Survey 2021 10 years old
Common Sense Media 2019 10.9 years old

The averages from multiple national surveys indicate that most kids are not receiving personal phones until age 10 or later. While the decision depends on your individual child’s maturity and needs, waiting until at least 10 years old seems to align with what most parents are comfortable with in today’s landscape.


Deciding when to provide your child with their first phone is an important judgment call. While there are good arguments on both sides, most kids do not receive their own phones until age 10 or later. If your 9 year old is mature, responsible, and your family’s circumstances would benefit from the added communication, a phone could be reasonable at this age. However, you should establish clear rules and restrictions and provide close monitoring. If you have hesitations about your child’s readiness, alternatives like smart watches or tablets may be the best intermediate option. With mindful consideration of the pros, cons, and your individual circumstances, you can make an informed choice about when the time is right for your 9 year old to join the mobile world.