MANY parents will at some point wonder whether or not to buy their children a mobile phone.
The necessity for one may vary, depending on what age they ask. So when is it safe for a child to own one?
What age should a child have a phone?
Mobiles can be helpful to keep in touch with your kids, and can give you the peace of mind which comes with knowing your
child can reach you in an emergency.
But, by giving your kids an internet-connected phone, you also risk opening up a Pandora’s Box of malicious hackers, adult content and general online nastiness.
And internet safety experts warn that parents should always make sure their kids are well clued-up on navigating the internet before they are given a smartphone.
Carolyn Bunting, CEO of e-safety organization Internet Matters said: “Every child is different and whether it be a sign of maturity or peace of mind; parents know intuitively what the right age is for their child to be given a smartphone.”
Should an 11 year old have a phone?
Their study found that it’s between the ages of eight and 11 when more kids are allowed to have their own mobile, with 39 percent of kids in this age group owning their own phone.
Research by Ofcom found that only one per cent of children under five have their own smartphone, compared to six per cent of children under eight.
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, added: “The crucial thing is to start introducing online safety as soon as they start to go online – whether that’s on a laptop or tablet at home or their first mobile – so internet safety is just part and parcel of being online.
“We’d suggest making this conversation part of your everyday life, so it becomes natural for children to discuss any safety concerns with their parents.”
Tips to keep your kids safe online
Internet Matters says these five tips will help keep your kids safe online:
- Have open and honest conversations with your child about their online world. Find out what they like doing and get involved.
- Set boundaries with your child or put in place a family contract for their internet use, which includes details of where and when they can use their devices and for how long.
- Set up parental controls on your home broadband as well as all of the other internet-enabled devices your child has access to. Use a child-friendly search engine and where necessary, set their user account to only follow sites which you’ve deemed safe.
- Check age-limits on games, websites and apps – especially ones that have a social media element.
- Check that online accounts are password protected and ensure they are not putting out personal information online. If they do have a social media profile ensure they are only accepting requests from friends – and request that you or someone you both trust follows them to keep on top of their online activity.
What phone is safe for a child at what age?
If you think your kids are ready for their own phone, there are specific child-friendly models you can pick up.
Many kids are ready for a phone by the age of 13, but this is more down to the maturity of the child and the necessity of the device.
Ofcom advises using a basic handset if your child just needs a way to get in touch in an emergency or send short texts.
If your kids are just keen on downloading apps, watching videos or surfing the internet then you may be best off getting a tablet instead.
You can get Wi-Fi-only tablets for your kids to use at home, which reduces the risk that they will rack up any massive data or download bills.
If you’re sticking with a phone, look for devices like the Monqi Kids Smartphone which let parents set limits for surfing, downloading and texting.
The Moto G Play also ranks highly among tech buffs when it comes to parental controls, as does the Sony Xperia XA.
If you’re stuck when it comes to online safety, you can always check out the Internet Matters and Get Safe Online websites.
Ofcom also has a full guide for parents scratching their heads about getting their kids a mobile.