Should I buy my child a mobile phone?

As the average age of children getting their first smartphone continues to go down, it’s clear that parents need to start thinking about some of the benefits and risks involved when it comes to getting phones for the kids.

Considering investing in a mobile phone for your kids? While you may be grappling with ‘what age should the kids get a phone?’, here are a few things you need to know before you actually go out and buy smartphones for the kids.

Kids and smartphones: 4 things you need to know

1. Teach them about cyber bullying

Unfortunately, cyber bullying can be part of using social media platforms on your smartphone. And as it’s likely that the children will be using their smartphones to interact with their friends via Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, they could encounter some form of online bullying. So, it’s useful to arm them with some information and tools on how to handle cyber bullying before you give them their smartphone. These simple steps will help you to protect your children on social media:

  • Have a chat with them about the dangers of accepting follow requests from people they don’t know.

  • Make sure they’re careful about the comments that they leave on their friends’ pictures and profiles too. Remind them that anything that’s posted online, stays online, and that future employers will have access to anything they’ve posted publicly. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t want your parents to see it, then you probably shouldn’t post it.

  • Make a note of all of their passwords for apps and social media accounts. If there is any group messaging or direct messages that are inappropriate, you can take control of their accounts to remove the risk of cyber bullying. Of course, this approach will be dependent on your child’s age – if they’re at university, for example, then they might object to you trawling through their messages on a daily basis!

2. Set an example they can follow

There’s nothing worse than sitting around the family dinner table with the kids face down, distracted by the latest YouTuber while you’re trying to have a conversation with them. Make sure you set some rules before you buy phones for the kids. By setting some clear boundaries on when and where it’s appropriate to use their smartphones, they’ll soon realise the importance of stepping away from their screens. Here are some tips on how to handle it:

  • Right from the off, make sure some clear rules are put into place. No phone at the dinner table, before homework, or after bedtime.

  • If you’d like the children to take their phone to school for safety purposes, make sure you check out the school’s policy on phones. Most won’t allow any phones during class, so make sure they’re aware of the rules.

  • Do they have regular hobbies outside of school? Make sure the lure of the phone doesn’t impact on the time they have to get out there and socialise.

3. Give them more responsibility

One of the major benefits of buying phones for the kids is that it will give them a sense of responsibility, especially if you opt for prepaid phone plans for kids. Depending on what kind of deal you go for, discuss the regular costs of the kids’ phone usage. Introducing them to some chores or monthly allowances could help them get to grips with the importance of budgeting. Here are some other ways to encourage them to take more responsibility for their belongings:

  • Do the children get pocket money? Ask them to contribute a percentage of their allowance to the monthly cost of their phone.

  • Remember that a smartphone could also be a useful learning tool for the kids. Take a look at some educational apps that could help them out at school and provide some family entertainment.

  • Talk to them about the potential costs of losing or breaking the phone. Chat to them about how long it would take for them to pay for a new handset out of their allowance (even if you’re planning to pay for it yourself!).

4. Think about mobile phone insurance

So you’ve laid down some ground rules, and talked to the children about how they should appropriately make use of their phone.

Still worried about paying for loss or damage? Consider investing in mobile phone insurance. It will give you peace of mind, and one less thing to worry about as the kids quickly bypass your technological skills.

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