When should kids have cell phones and tablets? Here’s what parents told Osmo researchers

March 8, 2022 / Learn About Osmo

The Research at Osmo team found that 74 percent of parents who participated in a recent survey thought children should be at least 10 years old before getting their own smartphone. And yet when looking at which age children should receive their own tablets, 72 percent believed that children should have their own tablet by the time they are nine years old according to survey results. 

Researchers Cynthia Torma and Yuqi Yao analyzed the data over the past two years, and note that “10 years old seems to be the turning point for the types of devices that parents are comfortable having their children own. Before 10 years old, 72% of parents believe kids are old enough to own a tablet, but it’s not until after 10 that a similar number — 74% — believe kids are old enough to own a smartphone.”

Parents always wonder at what age they should be giving their kids access to phones, tablets and other screen devices, said Heidy Maldonado, PhD, Senior Staff Researcher at Osmo.

“There are guidelines that differ from actual parents’ experience — for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that kids ages two through five years old should get an hour or less of screen time per day,” she said.

“Yet the reality is quite different: Common Sense Media reported in 2020 that children two to eight years of age had an average screen time of two and a half to three hours per day. Many of these minutes are co-viewing situations, where children are watching or playing with older siblings, or talking via videoconference with friends and family members.

“So we wondered, at what age do most parents give their children access to these devices for independent use? We’ve done these surveys for a couple of years, and are thrilled to get the chance to share these results for all those of you that are wondering too.”

Of the 74 percent of parents who thought children should wait until around the start of middle school for their own smartphone, 18 percent believed they should be at least 14 – or at the start of high school before having one in their pocket. 

Thirty three percent of respondents said that their children between ages 3 and 9 had their own cell phone with an additional 11 percent reporting their children between those ages had access to one.