Answering the Top Questions From Today’s Parents, Part 1

Answering the Top Questions from Today’s Parents, Part 1

The questions began rolling in…

What age do you recommend giving our kids phones?

What is the easiest way to monitor a child’s online safety?

What are the dangers of the app

These are just a few of the countless questions I just received from parents…and in the next three days I’m going to answer all of them in this blog. Each day I’m going to narrow it down to the top 10.

In early November I sat on a panel where five of us (myself, a child psychiatrist, a coach, a school administrator and a youth pastor) fielded questions from the audience. Questions were texted in and we answered as many as we could in an hour’s time. The questions were so numerous we couldn’t possibly get to them all, so I tackled each of them when I got back to my office, offering quick answers, links to online articles and finally books for further reading.

So here they are…including the ones we answered that day. (Here’s the first 10, PART I of III)


1. What age do you recommend receiving a phone?

With all the distractions that today’s mobile devices offer, I think it’s best to wait until age 12 or 13 to give our kids their first device that gives them the capability to download apps. After all, they can’t even be on the big social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) until age 13 (thanks to COPPA…more on that in the next answer).

Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, was asked when he recommends allowing a smartphone and he said, “The longer you wait the better.” He explained how no two kids were the same, so it’s hard to name one age for all kids, but for his own kids, he waited to give them smartphones until they were in high school and learned responsibility.

More research on this subject in this article: ARE SMARTPHONES & SOCIAL MEDIA TOO DANGEROUS FOR MY KIDS?

2. What age do you recommend allowing children on social media?

You’d think this answer would be easy, because even the Federal Trade Commission has declared that kids have to be 13 years old to be on SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook. It’s because of COPPA, which stands for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, preventing companies from collecting certain information from kids under 13. Apps like Snap, Insta and Facebook actually ask your kids to enter their birthdate when they sign up. If they are under 13, they can’t sign up…that is…unless they lie about their age, which is what most kids do. Other apps like don’t ask for age information, but in their privacy settings do claim that they cannot collect information from 13-year-olds…but who’s checking?

Many parents aren’t aware of these age requirements, and honestly, many don’t care. Here’s where parents need to remember they are the parent, and some boundaries are healthy. When your 11-year-old asks you if they can download SnapChat, this is a great time to reply, “Sorry, it’s against the law. You have to wait until you’re 13.” Now you’re off the hook…at least until they turn 13.

Experts like Common Sense Media agree that 13 is a good age to let your kids start using social media, but even then, they say “whether she is 10 or 16” set some realistic ground rules like using privacy settings, thinking before you post, etc. And that’s the bottom line—don’t just hand your kids a device at 13; teach them responsibility first. Use a book like The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices as a phone contract, helping them think through who they’re friending, the pics they’re posting, the content they’ve absorbing. Simply tell them, “When you finish the book, then you get your phone.” Educate them and engage them in conversations about what it looks like to post wisely in an insecure world.

3. I am a mom of an 11-year-old girl. Do you have recommendations for her first phone or specific smartphones or specific apps that allow us to limit the types of websites she would have access to?

Good question. First, I’ve seen countless software available to “block” porn and “spy” on kids…and personally…I didn’t use those. I just used the “enable restrictions” feature on my kids’ iPhones and made it so they required a password to download apps, etc. That way if my kid came to me and asked, “Can I have Instagram?” then I could have a conversation with them about it rather than just relying on some spy app to block it. Conversations and “walking with” our kids through this process is by far better than any software.

Here’s an article about some of the settings you might want to consider for Instagram, as well as some of the important guidelines you might want to discuss with your kids: KEEPING INSTAGRAM SAFE.


Here’s an article about porn blocks and filters: 2 UNDENIABLE FACTS ABOUT PARENTAL CONTROLS AND PORN BLOCKS.

For Further Reading: If I Had a Parenting Do Over, Chapter 7: Walk With

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Jonathan McKee
Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous youth ministry books including the brand new Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning books Do They Run When They See You Coming? and Getting Students to Show Up. He speaks and trains at camps, conferences, and events across North America, and provides free resources for youth workers internationally on his website, Used with permission from

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