Smartphones are a ubiquitous reality: 84% of American adults use them, according to CivicScience tracking over the last 365 days. 

What do adults, specifically parents, believe about kids and teens having access to this technology, as well as social media accounts that inevitably follow? 

CivicScience asked more than 2,200 U.S. adults about their comfort level with children and teens having mobile phones or smartphones. As the data show, 40% believe it’s acceptable for kids to get their first phone between 13 and 15 years old. While this is the largest group of respondents, those who believe 12 or younger is an acceptable age to have access are not far behind.

Although the majority of Americans are comfortable with kids 15 and younger having cellphones, opinions change when it comes to social media. In this case, 54% of U.S. adults believe that the minimum age for a child or teen to have a social media account should be 16 or older. 

Parents vs. Non-parents

Those who are neither parents nor grandparents believe that kids should not have phones until they’re 16 or older. However, this same group is generally more in favor of kids having social media accounts at a younger age.

Meanwhile, parents’ responses are generally on track with the overall opinions seen above–echoing the sentiment that phones could be acceptable at a younger age, but that social media should come later.

Young Adults, Men Are More Lenient About Access

There is a clear trend amongst younger adults, who agree that younger kids should have phones and social media accounts before they are 16.

Men and women align almost exactly in their beliefs about phone ownership under 18. Men are more comfortable than women with the idea of children (under 16) creating and using their own social media accounts.

Personal Experience Makes a Difference 

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the more time that someone spends on social media, the more in favor they are of kids having phones and social media accounts at a younger age.

While ultimately the choice to allow a child or teen under 18 to have a phone or social media accounts is up to the adult(s) in charge, the barrier to entry for kids and teens to have access to personal tech and the digital world it offers, appears to be getting lower.