In this digital age it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have a cell phone. It’s even common to find children in elementary school with the latest mobile devices. Between 2015-2021, there was a 20 percent increase in kids having a smartphone, according to Statista. Those kids are as young as 8-years-old. The phones are helpful to parents for obvious reasons. Those include being able to stay in contact with your child. Having unlimited access to a cell phone, however, has the potential to be harmful to kids. 

Parents should prioritize having to having unlimited access to their child’s mobile devices and routinely check them. Licensed counselor and school psychologist Deidra Sorrell, believes allowing a child to have privacy shows a level of respect, but it should come with limits. She says those limits can start to ease as a child gets older. 


The main reason that parents need to check a child’s phone is for safety. Freely roaming the internet brings the risk of predators, bullies and inappropriate images. Sorrell believes 11 is a good age to provide a cell phone, but without all of the bells and whistles.

“I encourage parents to get their children a simpler phone that is more basic and appropriate for just calling and texting parents,” Sorrell said.

The goal is to have a phone with less capabilities and risks. She suggests transitioning to a smartphone no earlier than the age of 13.

“It is very important for parents to take into consideration their child’s maturity level and mental health when making that decision,” Sorrell suggested.


Establishing trust with your child and their cell phone is important. Your child should still remember that you can check their phone anytime you want to. Think about going through every corner of their phone. This includes text message threads, call logs, pictures, videos, applications, search engines and downloads.

“Technology is changing so rapidly, and new social media apps seem to pop out of nowhere. It’s good practice for parents to know what their children are doing on social media, what photos [or] videos they have and what they are texting,” Sorrell advised.

Social Media

Children enjoy using social media just as much as adults do.

“It is important for parents to research which social media apps their child will use and regulate which ones they will allow,” Sorrel explained.

Not everyone on social media is who they portray themselves to be. Having talks with your children about social media safety can encourage them to speak up when a problem occurs.

“Children should feel comfortable seeking help from their parents any time bullying, threats, inappropriate activity, or direct messages from strangers happen,” Sorrell said,

She also suggests following or adding your child as a friend on social media to monitor their activities.

Mental Health

Studies have shown that social media can have a negative effect on the mental health of children. Sorrell says the comparisons to other people’s lives can contribute to low self-esteem and depression. Regular check-ups can determine if social media is something your child can handle. Along with enforcing limits, having alternatives for younger children can help with this.

“Limits should occur with middle school students to ensure that they are spending time reading, writing, and engaging in face-to-face activities, or family activities,” says Sorrell.

Identifying Other Problems

If you notice something unusual in your child’s behavior, it may be time to see what’s happening on their phone. Maybe they are starting to speak, dress or act differently. Sorrell believes the answers to questions about the changes you are seeing in your child often lie on their phones.

“If grades are starting to drop or behaviors start to change, the first place the parents should look is through their children’s phones,” Sorrell suggests.