Parent trying to see a childs mobile phone

Should I Let My Child Have a Smartphone?

In the advice below, we mention several ways to help protect your child but what should be the most important factor is that you and your child talk about the responsibilities of owning a mobile phone and keep communication open for if either of you have any concerns about the use of the phone.

Parents need to be adjustable to modern technology. However, there will always be the “what if” questions and “am I doing the right thing”. The following five questions should provide you with a little reassurance on whether your child is ready for their first mobile phone.

1. What is the best age to allow your child to have a mobile phone?

To answer this question in short “it depends”. Only a parent will know the maturity of their child and whether they are responsible enough to follow family rules, take care of a valuable object and not lose it. Another factor to consider when making this decision is whether your child understands the proper use of a mobile phone and how improper use can affect the feelings and rights of others.

According to research by CHILDWISE Monitor 2015, the UK mobile phone ownership increases dramatically with age:

  • One in eight 5-6 year olds
  • Three in ten 7-8 year olds
  • Three in five 9-10 year olds
  • Nine in ten 11-13 year olds
  • Almost all 15-16 year olds

2. How can I make sure my child’s privacy is protected?

Privacy protection is two-fold; the kind that a child is aware of through proper communication with parents and the kind that can be installed on the phone and controlled by the parent.

It may be surprising to know that only 61% of youths use social media privacy settings and 52% turn off their location settings. This leaves the other 48% sharing their current or most recent location.

This is why communicating the importance of privacy to your child should be the first thing you do as it not only educates them on what information they share but also what other users post and share. Teaching children how to share information carefully and showing respect to others and themselves enables the child to make responsible decisions about what information they share both now and in the future.

The second kind of privacy is parental management through apps installed on the phone. These kinds of apps can provide control over what data your child can share and also allow parents to see what activities their child is partaking in on their phone.

You can find a list of the most common apps here: Parental Control Apps for iOS and Android

3. How can I monitor what my child does on their phone?

Like with privacy management apps mentioned above, there are a lot of parental control apps also available for smartphones. However, these apps rely on parents setting the boundaries for their child. Some handsets, like the Microsoft Lumia, have settings built in to allow parents more control over what apps can be downloaded or restrict certain web pages.

We wrote an article not so long back about the Microsoft Lumia handset and how easy it is to set up a family account on a Windows phone. If you don’t want to spend the spend money on an app you feel is too intrusive, you could consider buying your child a Windows phone and following our helpful guide.

4. How can I monitor the apps my child can download?

The most practical way to ensure your children use their phone to download safe and age appropriate apps is to talk to them about the apps that they want to use. Then carry out a little research on the app if it is something new to you. You could set a boundary when the child is first given the phone to agree that no app is downloaded without first talking to you. This instils a trusting relationship between you and your child.

Parental controls on some phones allow you to set parameters such as passwords so your child can only download the app with your help. However, even some of the most trusted apps can be misused so it is still important to discuss privacy and security with your child.

5. Is there a way to cap my child’s phone service?

Firstly, before you even purchase a phone review the different bundles and tariffs available so you can see what would be the best for your child. Asda Mobile Bundles are very competitive and offer great content blockers for web use. The main factors to consider are:

  • Limited or unlimited text messaging
  • Number of voice minutes
  • Monthly data.

Also, talk to your children about the use of Wi-Fi, which enables their devices to use the internet for free without any content control.

If the new handset needs an account to download apps or make in-app purchases, consider adding the account yourself and keeping the password private from your child. This way you will not be hit with any unexpected bills.

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