The truth is that we live in an increasingly digital world; it is simply unavoidable. Mobile phones have their good and bad points. Some argue that they contribute to a growing dependence on technology, and others say that they are vital tools for your safety. So the question is, when should kids get a phone? What age is reasonable? Ultimately, this is up to your discretion as a parent, but we can help arm you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.
How Young Is Too Young For A Mobile Phone?
There are a lot of apps and even phones marketed to children. Some of which boast developmental benefits. But should they have a phone before they are old enough to text and call? The general consensus seems to be that the age of eleven or twelve is the right time. Children make the transition from primary school to secondary school, and a phone can become an important lifeline.
The Importance Of Boundaries
If you do decide to allow your children to have a mobile phone, then it is vital that you set some boundaries and rules for them to follow. Start by setting up the phone with important contacts so that they know who they are talking to, advise them against answering phone calls or texts from numbers that aren’t saved or that they don’t recognise.
Establish some rules to limit their use of the phone so that you won’t be unpleasantly surprised by the phone bill. Either that or you could look into pay-as-you-go contracts or other plans. For example, Lebara has a range of sim only plans which could work for you and your child. This helps limit spending costs and can give you more control.
Most schools ban the use of phones in the classroom if not on the premises as a whole, often leading to confiscations if they are caught with them. Make your child aware of this rule and encourage them to keep their phone in their bag throughout the school day.
While they are home, they arguably do not need their phone as much, especially if it is simply to be used as a tool for you to communicate with them. Come up with appropriate hours for use, like after homework and before bed. Do not let them keep their phone overnight as it can disrupt their sleep and affect their concentration throughout the following day.
Frankly, children are careless with their things. They are forever breaking them and losing them. Impress upon your children that they are responsible for their phones. You cannot and shouldn’t replace their phone immediately if they break it or lose it. They need to learn how to take care of their things. It teaches them responsibility, and it can serve as an important life lesson.
Choosing The Phone
As mentioned above, children are careless and reckless. This means that spending the money to buy your child the latest phone is probably not the best idea. Come up with a budget; how much do you want to spend on a phone for your child? You can allow the criteria mentioned below to inform your budget.
For example, phones with more features are more likely to cost more. Pay monthly contracts often come with a handset too that you are paying off as part of the contract. In comparison, a pay-as-you-go contract has to go with a phone that you already have or have bought. When it comes to choosing a phone, there are other criteria that you should be prioritising over the look, brand, and name of the phone.
Firstly, what do you want your child to be able to do with said phone? How do you want them to use it? If you simply want them to have the ability to call and text, then they don’t necessarily need a phone with internet access. Unless, of course, you are happy for your child to have access to the internet. Do you want a phone that offers more parental control features, like the limiting of certain apps and functions? Think about this when you are compiling your options.
Is your child especially accident-prone? You can find more robust phones and resistant to damage if this is the case. Look for ones with screens that are harder to smash and resistant to scratches. You can even find water-resistant phones. Finally, after choosing a phone, remember to have a screen protector installed and a compatible phone case to limit the potential damage further.
If you are going to allow them to have a phone with internet access, you need to think about the phone’s storage capacity. In order to ensure that they have enough room to download and use all of the apps that they want to, they will need a phone with decent storage. Their media can be saved digitally to a cloud, which shouldn’t cause problems or waste storage space.
You should also put some thought into the form of contract that you are going to get them. The choices are pay monthly or pay-as-you-go. Both options are good. In the end, it comes down to whether or not you want your child to be able to run out of credit. This does not happen on pay monthly plans, but your child does have the power to go over the contract and incur extra costs. On a pay-as-you-go sim, your child has a certain allowance; once it’s used, that’s it. They cannot do anything until they have topped their phone up again.
The Bottom Line
As mentioned above, the decision to provide your child with a mobile phone is a personal one. It comes down to whether you think they need one. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured either way. If you decide to give them a phone, it is highly recommended that you look into parental controls and monitor their activity to ensure that they are safely using their phone and the internet. Educate your children on the perils of social media and the importance of using their phones responsibly.