Parents feel kids should have a phone by age 13

Research from the family locator app and safety membership platform Life360 has revealed the top benefits that parents of kids 13 and under see from mobile ownership alongside the rules that they put in place to encourage healthy and safe smartphone habits.

The survey highlights that in an age of increasingly digitally native families, many are embracing technology as a means to provide peace of mind when it comes to modern-day parenting including reassurance that it is easier than ever before to stay on top of their kids’ whereabouts.

The data reveals that almost two-thirds of parents believe that smartphone ownership can positively impact education and learning, whilst a significant 67 per cent prioritise safety and security as the number one reason for providing their child with a mobile phone, surpassing other factors such as convenience and social lives. The majority of parents feel kids should have a phone by age 13.

Top phone rules parents set in place include no usage whilst at school, a limit on total hours they use it, and no use at night time. Other common phone rules include restrictions on apps, restrictions on browsing and limits on where phones can be used e.g. only in the living room, not in bedrooms.

Parenting expert Kirsty Ketley says, “Responsible use of phones can be essential to support today's parenting, from coordinating busy family schedules to giving peace of mind that kids are safe when not physically with them. It’s important that parents set clear rules and guidance for their families and especially for their kids when they get a smartphone as this encourages safe habits that they benefit from right into adulthood.”

“Of course, children learn from their parents, so the same rules should apply to every member of the family who owns a phone when it comes to when you use the phone, how and where. Setting the right example will ensure the right behaviour,” Kirsty adds.

The research also reveals that parents remain divided on whether phones should be used at the dinner table, as half of parents whose children have phones place restrictions on usage at the dinner table.

Parental controls of website content also rank among the top rules for kids’ phone usage, with 61 per cent of respondents revealing they monitor the sites their kids are accessing and 38 per cent reviewing their text messages. When asked what was the first type of app that their child had on their smartphone, gaming apps ranked top of the list at 45 per cent, followed by location-sharing apps at 18 per cent.

Of parents whose children have smartphones, an overwhelming majority seek reassurance by actively using location-sharing technology, and many agree it makes them significantly more likely to allow their children to do major activities like travel to and from school by 86 per cent and go into town or to shopping centres with friends by 86 per cent unsupervised.

“It’s beneficial for tweens and teens to have access to smartphones as this technology often becomes an integral part of day-to-day family life across multiple generations and vital in rare emergencies,” David Rice, International GM and CSO for Life360, comments.