First Time for Everything: When Should Kids Get a Job, a Phone, a Date?

Americans say kids should go to their first sleepover at age 11 and have the “sex talk” at age 12

01:00 PM EDT Sep 1, 2016 Rating
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First Time for Everything: When Should Kids Get a Job, a Phone, a Date?

NEW YORK, N.Y. – As a new school year begins, the coveted first day is just one of many “firsts” kids may be facing over the next year. But should a seventh grader be doing the same things as a senior in high school? Whether it’s getting a car for the first time or going to see an R rated movie, everyone has an idea of what age these first-time activities are deemed appropriate for kids. A recent Harris Poll asked American adults and teens to weigh in on when it’s proper for a kid to do certain things. They also dished on when they personally did each.

When it comes to wearing makeup, Americans – on average – say a kid should be nearly 15 years old (14.8). Similarly, Americans were 14.7, on average, when they began wearing makeup for the first time. Teens, however, have a different perspective and say they started at 13 – a significantly lower age than their adult counterparts. This could explain why 8 in 10 Americans (81%) say parents today let their kids wear makeup way too young.

Americans may be wary of other activities happening too soon as well. In fact, overall, 92% of adults say kids today are growing up too quickly. But when should a kid not have to turn to their parents for permission and be considered an adult on their own? On average, the magic age is 18.8 years old. However, older adults – specifically those 65 years and older – say this should actually be 19.5, significantly higher than their younger counterparts. 

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,463 U.S. adults aged 18+ and 510 teens age 13-17 surveyed online between July 14 and 27, 2016.

Flying solo

Americans say kids are ready at age 11 (10.7 on average) to venture out to a sleepover. When it comes to staying home alone, however, 13.5 is the magic age. Older Americans – those 45 and over – are more likely than teenagers to state a significantly higher age, on average. This is despite the fact that Americans say they were allowed to stay home alone a whole year earlier than this, at 12.5 years old.

Staying in the comforts of home is one thing, but if a child is looking to attend their first concert without a parent, they may be waiting a bit longer. While Americans went to their first concert at 18 (17.7 on average), they say kids are actually ready a bit younger – at 16.5 years of age.

Love is in the air

Sixteen years old is when Americans feel kids are ready for their first one-on-one date. Interestingly, this is largely agreed upon across generations. No need to wait for the official first date to get a little face time, however. Americans agree kids are ready for their first kiss at age 15 (15.1 on average), while on average, they had theirs at age 14.5.

But first, let’s talk about sex. Americans feel kids need the “sex talk” at age 12 (12.3 on average), a year earlier than they were given the chat (13.2 on average).

Screen time

A hotly debated issue among parents today surrounds screen time and when kids should get access to certain electronics. On average, Americans say 14 is when kids should get a cell phone. While parents with adult-aged children say they should wait until 15 (14.8 on average), those with younger kids say they need them at age 13 (13.3 on average).

Moving onto the big screen, kids are ready to see an R rated movie at 16.5. Older Americans, however, think this age should be higher. Those over 45 say kids should be 17 (45-54: 16.8; 55-64: 17.0), with those 65 and older saying 18 (17.9 on average) is more appropriate.

Behind the wheel

While Americans may say kids are ready to get behind the wheel at age 16 (15.9 on average), they’re not ready for the responsibility of their own wheels until nearly age 18 (17.6 on average). Those 65 and older state an age significantly higher than their younger counterparts.

It’s all about the Benjamins

And just who is paying for all of these first time activities? Parents are likely footing the bill until at least age 15, when Americans agree a child is ready for their first job (15.5 on average). Until then, many kids may be able to rake in the dough from their weekly allowance, which Americans say should start at age 10 (9.8 on average).

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 14 and 27, 2016 among 2,463 adults aged 18+ and 510 teens aged 13-17. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.  Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #57, September 1, 2016

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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