With smartphones sales set to be at their highest ever this Christmas, parenting and tech blogger Nathan Richardson looked at the very modern issue facing parents as part of a project with Best VPN.
Children owning a mobile phone can be a sensitive subject to broach. Some believe that smartphones are invaluable for the safety of the child and peace of mind for the parent. But others think they are a distraction and a potential threat to their online security. Plenty of experts have given their opinion on the subject and many surveys and studies have been carried out to try to understand whether there is a trend.
Studies have indicated that on average children will receive a mobile phone by the time they are seven years old and that nearly one in ten will own a mobile phone by age five. Interestingly, this is despite the fact that according to a different survey, around 85 per cent of parents would support an age restriction that would stop children under 10 from owning a mobile. On top of this, school behaviour expert Tom Bennett has suggested that children should not be allowed smartphones until they are 16. But what age is right for you and your children?
The benefits of children owning smartphones
Security is one of the most common reasons that parents want their children to have a mobile phone. With a phone in their pocket they are only ever a call away, meaning they can be easily reached or can easily reach their parents if they need help. This can give you peace of mind so that you know in any circumstances your child can get hold of you.
It’s also true that a phone can give children an additional way to communicate with their parents. It’s possible that some children feel more able to be honest if they can text rather than having to say it face-to-face. This could be to do with being bullied at school or any other personal problems they might have.
What are the dangers?
One thing that many parents worry about is giving their children access to the internet or social media where they can speak to anyone without control. Whether it’s unwanted interactions with strangers or cyber bullying from classmates, it’s worrying that children could be involved in conversations that you cannot have any influence over.
Another issue is that a mobile can be a huge distraction. If children are allowed to take their phones to school they could be using them in the classroom. Some children will pester their parents for a smartphone because other children in their class have them. Of course you want your child to be happy and don’t want them to feel that they are missing out on having fun with their school friends, however, you don’t want to them to fall into a culture of feeling they are missing out if they don’t have a mobile phone available at all times. Children can be susceptible to mobile phone addiction.
Pay as you go vs. contract
It’s also worth noting whether it’s a better idea for children to have a pay-as-you-go phone or a contract. Some parents prefer the idea of pay-as-you-go because it allows them to manually limit how much time their child can spend on their phone. However, you also have the problem that if your child runs out of credit and tries to call you, they won’t be able to do so, which would remove the some of the benefit of having the phone in the first place. A contract phone eliminates this risk but it can mean that you have little manual control over your child’s phone usage.
Setting rules is essential
If you’re going to let your child have a mobile phone at any age, the important thing to do is to set rules so that they understand when it is and when it is not appropriate for them to use their phone. For example, have a rule that says no mobile phone use an hour before bed.
Until Next Time… Charlotte x