The ‘right’ age to own a phone

IN my opinion, children are only prepared to have a phone when they’re around 12, and with restrictions.

When my parents first presented a mobile phone to my 11-year-old self and allowed me the agency to use it on my own, it was for communication reasons.

Whenever I was out, I could give them a call if the need arose. Likewise, whenever they were out, they could reach me easily.

Thanks to our telecommunication, I knew where I was supposed to meet them after my tuition classes, and I could ask my parents when they were coming home.

There was also the occasional photo-taking. A timeless party with my cousins, an unruffled family vacation, one of my piano performances, and so on.

Eu Kenn: Children need guidance and parents shouldn’t be so quick as to blame their children if they’re found using their phones irresponsibly.Eu Kenn: Children need guidance and parents shouldn’t be so quick as to blame their children if they’re found using their phones irresponsibly.

I could keep my favourite memories frozen digitally and look back at them from time to time.

But having a phone at a young age has its downsides.

I didn’t know I could develop an “addiction” to social media. I found myself wasting hours on my phone, often at night whenever I couldn’t sleep.

I scrolled through YouTube mindlessly to find videos entertaining enough to watch until I felt like sleeping.

My parents had their complete trust in me, hence they didn’t supervise me. But I got grounded without access to my phone plenty of times when they found me awake at midnight.

In short, my phone was a distraction for me. Cute cat videos, trashy Tiktok dances, game theory videos – you name it; they took away the hours that I could have spent on more essential activities like sleep and schoolwork.

Admittedly, even now, this problem is still prevalent in my life. I often have to install features that limit my social media screen time or even delete social media apps during my exam preparations.

My phone also took away the social aspect of my life. It’s no joke that lack of socialising could be a consequence of too much screen time.

I always found myself using my phone as an alternative whenever social situations became awkward.

Frequently, I found myself thinking, “Hey, I don’t need to pass the time in this family gathering by socialising. I can just tap on my phone!”

The result? My social skills deteriorated and I turned into a teen who didn’t like talking to anyone.

I’d also like to bring up the maturity and responsibility that children need to have when given the privilege of owning a phone.

They are in their crucial “developing years” and thrusting a phone at them could ruin that.

For instance, I didn’t know how to regulate my screen time back then and wasn’t aware that my screen time was slowly becoming a problem, so I faced the above-mentioned consequences, and developed a worsening eyesight.

So, this begs the question: when is it appropriate for children to have a phone?

I got my phone around the age of 12 and faced some problems, but I think owning a phone at this age is the most equitable option.

From my observations, children at the age of 12 and over start doing more activities alone like taking public transportation and being at home unattended. Communication is vital in these situations.

No doubt, there are some unusual circumstances, such as when a younger child needs to take public transportation. Rather than giving these children a phone when they reach an older age, they could instead be educated more on phone usage.

What I’m saying is that children need guidance and parents shouldn’t be so quick as to blame their children if they’re found using their phones irresponsibly.

In this day and age, it is easy to spot parents who choose to give a phone to their children and let them watch Cocomelon and play Roblox, all because they don’t want to be pestered and disturbed.

If one is to get a phone at an extremely young age, one should be educated about the precautions one can take to avoid getting caught up in the downsides that come with it.

Eu Kenn, 16, a student in Kuala Lumpur, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to

Now that you have read the article, test your understanding by carrying out the following English language activities.

1. Do you agree with Eu Kenn that “children are only prepared to have a phone when they’re around 12, and with restrictions”?

Why or why not?

2. What do you use your phone for? Can you think of alternative ways of doing these things without your phone?

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email

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