6 Signs Your Child Isn’t Ready for a Phone

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Phones are like puppies: You don’t have to get one for your kid no matter how much they beg. It’s smart to wait until your child demonstrates some responsibility before you buy one.

We’ve identified six warning signs that your child isn’t quite ready for a phone, plus some tips to help them prepare.

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1. They ignore current screen time rules

If your child pitches a fit any time you limit their tablet, laptop, TV, or video game use, they’re unlikely to respect any phone rules. You might want to wait until they demonstrate more maturity before giving them their first phone. Just be clear that your decision hinges on their acceptance of screen time rules.

Need a hand? Use router-level parental controls like Bark Home or Circle Home Plus to lock specific devices in your home.

2. They have poor impulse control

You can probably relate to this feeling: You’re slightly bored and your phone is right there, begging to be scrolled through. It’s tempting to pick it up, even at inappropriate times like when you’re eating dinner with family.

Your child isn’t immune to this temptation. You’ll need to teach them healthy device use no matter what, but it may be easier to wait until their impulse control improves. Some children may be ready before others.

3. They forget to do daily tasks

A phone needs to be charged on a daily basis. If your child constantly needs to be reminded to do other daily tasks—like brushing their teeth or putting dirty clothes in the laundry bin—they may not be responsible enough to keep their phone charged.

That said, every kids phone and kids smartwatch we’ve reviewed features a to-do list that could help with this. Parents add items to the to-do list and kids check them off—in some cases even earning a reward for doing so.

Parent apps also include low-battery warnings so you can help your child manage their device battery.

4. They lose track of their belongings

Everyone misplaces something now and then, but think twice about getting your child a phone if you have to track down important items for them nearly every day. There’s a good chance they’ll lose their phone, too, and it’ll be pricey to replace.

That said, most kids phones come with a “lost phone alarm.” Just turn on this alarm from the parent app and follow the sound.

5. They’ve recently bullied or been bullied

Bark’s 2022 report notes an incredible 83% of teens and 71% of tweens have been a bully, been the victim of bullying, or witnessed bullying. Giving your child a phone opens them up to a whole new world of bullying called cyberbullying.

While you can take steps to prevent cyberbullying, such as blocking social media apps or monitoring text messages, you may want to let your child heal from a recent bullying incident before you give them a phone. Likewise, if your child is being a bully, they’re not emotionally mature enough for the responsibility of a phone.

6. They don’t typically come to you with problems

Once they have a phone with internet access or social media apps, there’s a chance they’ll encounter some confusing situations or distressing content. Kids need to be taught how to navigate these scenarios in a healthy way, and that means talking about them with a trusted adult. Hopefully, that’s you.

If your parent-child relationship lacks trust and open communication, try to improve it before you grant them their first phone. Simply practicing non-judgmental listening can go a long way.

What now?

  1. Your child is ready for a phone. Exciting! Compare our favorite kids phones.
  2. Your child isn’t ready for the internet but needs some way to communicate with you. Totally understandable. Try the internet-free Gabb Phone or a kids smartwatch.
  3. Your child isn’t ready for any kind of tech device. That’s okay—there’s no timeline to rush through. If your child is the one pushing for a phone, communicate your expectations with them. For example, you might explain that they need to not protest screen time limits for one month before you’ll consider getting them a phone.

Compare our favorite kids phones

Best for
Lowest phone price
Lowest service price
Cost to add another line
Money-back period
Learn more
Best overall


Full price
Icon No  LightNone
Icon Yes  Light1 year
Best for multiple kids $24.99/mo. $4.99/mo.
Icon Yes  Light30 days
Icon No  LightNone
Best for budgets


$1.75/mo. off starting with 3rd line
Icon Yes  Light15 days
Icon Yes  Light1 year
Best camera


Full price
Icon Yes  Light30 days
Icon No  LightPaid warranty only
Best for preschoolers N/A N/A
Icon Yes  Light30 days
Icon Yes  Light3 months

*Amazon.com price as of publish date. Read full disclaimer.


*Product prices and availability are accurate as of post date and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over eight years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She is a certified Safe Sleep Ambassador and has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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