I’m asked all the time by stressed out, nagged to death parents, ‘When is the best age to get my child a mobile phone?’
Even though they have probably been begging for one—how do you know they are really ready?
One simple question is to ask yourself, ‘What will they be using it for?’
I know that one natural time is when your child is starting Secondary School and they begin travelling to school on their own. You naturally want them to be able to keep in touch with you, let you know if their bus or train is delayed, or if their Club activity has been cancelled and they need a lift home.
Also in the dark Winter afternoons it’s good to know they are on their way home and a quick Whatsapp does the trick.
But of course your child wants to do so much more with their phone and you need to ‘talk and teach’ them about internet safety, accessing inappropriate sites and what to do if they are cyber bullied.
If you’re considering a smartphone for your child, you’ll also need to think through a few things, from who will pay for it to whether they are responsible enough to use it appropriately. But once you decide to take the plunge, start the conversation with these five questions.
Also, consider getting your child to complete Digital Compass (a Common Sense Media game that teaches digital citizenship) before agreeing to get them a phone.
Here are your starters for 10 ……
Why do you want a mobile phone?
The answer to this question will help you understand what to expect once your child gets the phone and where they might need some limits. Do they want to text with friends? Or play “Angry Birds” for hours?
Do you understand the rules our family and your school has for phone use?
Most children think they know the answer to this but it’s important to have this conversation BEFORE they get their phone. It’s a really good idea to talk about your family and school’s expectations around how the phone is going to be used. Talk about whether they can download apps without your permission, to how they can, or can’t, use their phone in the classroom or at school. Be clear about your rules, (write them down and pop them up on your fridge) and stick to them, and make sure that you discuss the consequences if your rules are broken.
What are some of the worries or concerns you think we might have (and your teachers) might have about your phone?
This question helps your child look at having a phone from your eyes and the school’s eyes and also will help them to understand the main sources of tension around kids and phone use. This will help them ‘buy into’ the responsibility of having a mobile phone. Talk about how often, and for how long, your child is on the phone, whether they are allowed to use social media apps, and how to handle a call or text from a stranger.
What are five places it’s not OK to use your phone?
‘Talk and Teach’ your child about manners and phone etiquette and safety and lay down the absolute basics, like no staring at your phone when Grandad is talking to you, no taking photos in changing rooms, no phones at the dinner table ….. pause to ponder your rules and jot them down.
Make sure you are also ‘walking your talk’ and not constantly on your mobile phone while banging on about your child’s use of their phone!
What will you do if you lose or break your phone?
Unfortunately, this is a real possibility and happens all the time. Talk about whether the phone will be replaced and, if so, who pays for it. Is insurance an option? Discuss the options for preventing loss or breakage BEFORE you invest in buying your child a phone.
I always recommend that parents Download Kidslox
With the ever increasing use of mobile devices in the home, Kidslox is the ideal digital companion for you as parents to help keep your children safe and limit their screen time.
And if you do get into arguments you know who to call …. I’m on 01883 818329 🙂