Why I Feel Safer Knowing My 10-Year-Old Has a Cell Phone

Amid school cell phone bans around the world, many parents still want their kids to stay connected.

Why I Feel Safer Knowing My 10-Year-Old Has a Cell Phone

Sara Murray, from Fonthill, Ontario, bought a cell phone for her now 10-year-old a year ago. “She walks to and from school, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. I like that she has her phone with her in case she needs me, and she feels more confident knowing she can always call for help,” she says.

Murray is one of a growing number of parents buying phones for their kids—a number that has skyrocketed in the past decade. A report by MediaSmarts found 41 percent of five- to nine-year-olds, and 55 percent of 10- to 13-year-olds have smartphones.

That her daughter, at 10, has a phone gives Murray peace of mind in case of any unexpected situations or emergencies. “Her father and I are not together, so in order for her to always have a way to reach me, I got her a phone a little younger than I thought I might.”

Plus, the convenience of cell phones goes both ways. Many parents text their children about after-school activities or who will pick them up. And while wanting this level of convenience is understandable, your child’s phone may become contraband at school.

A group of four children each hold and look at a cell phone

Why schools are banning phones

Cell phones are already banned at school in one in four countries worldwide including England, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Australia. Recently, in Ontario, Canada, the government has proposed new regulations to ban the use of cell phones during class time at public schools for the 2024-2025 school year. The new rules are to limit classroom distractions and boost student engagement.

Jennifer Flanagan thinks this is a move in the right direction. The CEO of Actua, Canada’s largest youth STEM outreach organization, and an education and online safety expert, Flanagan has over 25 years of experience teaching others about digital literacy and online safety.

“The research is very clear. Having access to smartphones in class, when it's not being used for educational purposes, is incredibly distracting. It impacts learning outcomes and increases mental health concerns,” she says.

Bans on phones during the school day can help reduce the overall time kids spend on devices, which is also a concern. Common Sense Media reports that kids eight to 12 spend more than five hours a day texting, gaming and on social media.

A group of children hold or look at smart phone screens

Kids with phones are on the rise


However, despite this evidence, some parents still want their kids to have cell phones with them at all times. In fact, 73 percent of parents surveyed by PEW Research Group said they think it’s acceptable for kids 12 to 14 to have a phone. And 22 percent said that it’s okay for kids under the age of 12. In the U.S., 50 percent of kids have their own phone by the age of 11.

Flanagan understands these very real concerns. She says that exceptions will need to be made and often it will come down to the discretion of the individual teacher or school to decide. However, having a school-wide mandate will help to “level the playing field to create a safe space for all kids.”

Danielle Gervais lives in Toronto, Ontario, and her 10-year-old also has a cell phone for safety reasons. “She walks to her great-grandparents' house after school alone. If God forbid she needs it, she will have it,” says Gervais.

Despite this, she welcomes the limits on phone use at school. “I do not think social media has a place in schools. Sharing and recording videos should not be allowed either. If they can manage to monitor and enforce that aspect of things, it would be great.”

As much as Murray wants to maintain instant communication with her child, she also supports the ban during lessons, “I certainly understand how a cell phone is distracting and inappropriate for class time. It also opens the doors to all manners of cheating, which is obviously wrong and prevents real learning from going on.”


Flanagan says that technology offers so many benefits and that this new rule should be part of a comprehensive program of digital skills and open conversation between schools, parents and kids. “The main message here is that this [school] is positive because it's going to help kids learn. It's still important that they learn good digital skills and digital literacy and that includes how to be safe and responsible online, everyone has a role to play.”

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