One of the most frequently asked questions on Google is ‘What age to give a child mobile phone?’ illustrating what a big dilemma it is for many parents.
So, what age is the right age to give a child a mobile phone?
There is no right answer for the right age as it varies for many people and depends upon circumstances. If you work away from home as a parent and your child is at after school club or with another parent for part of the week then you may be want to be able to contact them directly. It’s not uncommon to find some children with a phone from the age of 6. According to Internet Matters the average age is 10. However, a lot of parents try and wait until the children are 11 or 12 around the time they go up to secondary or senior school, when they may be making the journey to school on their own or taking public transport to school or to clubs.
It’s not just giving them a phone and handing it over it’s helping them manage the responsibility of it and also working out who pays the bills how much freedom you give them with the phone and ensuring they don’t rack up hundreds of pounds worth of bills!
Having a mobile phone for a child is a rite of passage but not quite the same as learning to drive and it’s not something you can just give them and let them get on with it. Every child is different when it comes to levels of responsibility so making sure that they know how to handle it and manage it is vital.
It’s a big scary world out there online and you are essentially giving them the keys to it just like you would do a car, but with a car you give them driving lessons. With a phone, it’s important to help them manage their phone and their online presence. Help them understand about how their digital footprint gets built when they are online. Online safety is in most school’s curriculums now but you should be prepared to have the danger about being online conversations and explain to them why you are concerned for their safety and explain about the dark side of the internet.
Peer pressure can be a big reason that children want a phone. Do any of their friends have a phone yet? Consider talking to other parents and all agree when is the right age, rather than one gets one and the others feel they need to keep up and you feel the pressure to get a phone so they don’t feel left out.
If you just want them to be able to receive calls from you or be able to keep in contact with them, you might want to consider a mobile phone that isn’t a smart phone. It just does the job and accepts calls and texts, like a starter phone. It might be that the phone is purely for when they are travelling to school or away from you that they have the phone when they are home they hand it back.
Things to consider when thinking about giving your child a phone
Data and bills!
Who will pay, how much data will you let them have, remember once you start you are committed, so maybe start small. If they have a small amount of data then they can just use Wi-Fi preventing the need for numerous data top ups! Most children these days communicate via text and the thought of actually answering and speaking on the phone is quite alien to them! A lot of phone packages give unlimited texts and calls or you can add them as an additional handset to your own phone.
How will you help them manage their online presence?
What apps and social media platforms will you let them go on. Make sure you know the platforms and the appropriate age limits, agree with them what is appropriate and what’s not.
Help them understand that it needs to be a mutual respect position where you know their passcode and they are happy to hand the phone over. Have a routine check through of the phone and tell them you why you will be doing it.social
Keep the conversation going.
Have honest and open conversations with your child about online safety and if you are concerned then tell them. Explain to them what to do if they see something that upsets them or what to do about cyberbullying.
Real life versus edited life
Help them understand that the instagrammable lifestyle isn’t real and that just because people post things online it doesn’t mean its true. Fake news etc. They are all topics that need introducing.
No phones at the table when eating
Try and start as you mean to go on and set the boundaries where and when it’s acceptable to have the phone.
Don’t let the phone become the default option and the relentless scrolling become a habit. If they are young then think about setting times they can have it and when they can’t.
No phone at bedtime
Consider a rule for charging it downstairs overnight so you don’t have phones in bedrooms as an overnight distraction, or being used as an alarm clock.
Parental lock and safe apps
Lots of apps let you manage you family sharing and Apple IOS and Google both have a family sharing app where any apps that they want to download have to be approved by the parents first. There are also the benefits with Find iPhone and Family Sharing you can actually track where the phone is and also your child!
A phone is a phone
Avoid if possible getting caught up in the latest model frenzy if they lose it, it’s expensive…think about mobile phone insurance. It also gives them nothing to aspire to if they get the latest model just like that.
It’s another parenting milestone to reach, but the main thing is to keep an open channel of communication with your child…!