When most of us were kids, the idea of a mobile phone wasn’t something that we considered. We might have got our first phones when we were in our teens, but they were purely functional, we could make calls and send texts, but we had to pay for everything, and Snake was the height of mobile gaming. It’s different for today’s children.
Your kids might start asking about having their own phone before their ages reach double digits, and they may complain that all of their friends have got one if you say no. Knowing when to say yes is a tough choice for most parents, and finding the right phone with the right deal can be even more challenging. You certainly would want to think twice before sending your primary school-aged child into school with the latest top of the range iPhone.
When’s the Right Time to Let Your Child Have a Phone?
So, when is the right time to let your child have a phone? Well, there’s no right answer here, and it really does depend on your child, their level of maturity, your budget, and when you feel it’s right.
Many parents agree that starting secondary school is the right time. This is the point when our children typically start walking to and from school alone, spending more time with their friends, and attending clubs and groups without our supervision. It’s also when they begin to become more responsible, and better at taking care of their own possessions.
But, there’s no set age. Speak to your child, make sure they understand the responsibilities of carrying an expensive piece of technology, and that they are willing to adhere to any rules and restrictions that you might set for them before making your choice.
The Benefits of Your Child Having Their Own Phone
At the right time, there are many benefits to buying your child their own smartphone. These include:
• Independence. When a child has a phone, they are more comfortable making plans and going out with their friends.
• Safety. A phone means that they can reach you if they need to and that you can get in touch with them easily.
• Privacy. Having a phone means that they can call friends and other relatives without needing your help. This can be especially useful if you are co-parenting.
• Preparation. Nowadays we’re very reliant on technology. Most of us use the internet at work, and it’s a big part of our lives. Letting your kids have access to smartphones and tablets helps to prepare them for adult life.
• Navigation. When kids get older and started exploring the world alone, they can easily get lost. A phone makes this much less dangerous. They can check the map, order a taxi, and call someone if they need to. They can even share their location with you.
• Responsibility. Kids learn to care for things when they’ve got something that they really care about. This used to be a pet. Now it’s a phone.
If you can see the benefits and feel ready to let your kid have a phone, how do you choose the right one?
Do You Have an Old Phone They Could Have?
Perhaps the best option for your child’s first phone (a bit like their first car) is giving them one of your old models. Most of us have got at least one lying around the house that we’ve kept in case of emergency, and if we’re honest, now that most apps and features are downloaded to the handset, it doesn’t matter as much if it isn’t brand new. As long as your old phone is still in good condition and has good battery life, it could be ideal. Buying a second-hand handset can also be a good option.
Finding the Right SIM Only Deal
If you already own the handset, you can save a lot of money by arranging a SIM-only deal, instead of paying for a contract that comes with a phone. This is much cheaper and can give you far more flexibility. By buying a SIM with the Lebara Refer a friend program, you could even make a little money by letting your child have a phone. Lebara SIM-only deals are monthly, giving you plenty of flexibility, and the data can be shared, making them ideal for families. Use Lebara’s refer program to earn extra cash while getting great deals for the whole family.
Use Family Plans
Family plans and data sharing are perfect if you are all on the same network. Plans like Lebara’s let you tether data, sharing between other members of your household, so no one ever has to run short. Family plans are a fantastic way to make savings, and also give you more control over who is spending what.
If you haven’t already got a handset, the costs are going to be a big concern. Brand new smartphones can be costly, but chances are your child, especially if they are a teenager, won’t be happy with a very old phone without any of the best features. At that age, appearance is everything, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take costs into account. Speak to your child, explain how much phones cost in terms they can understand (maybe how much pocket money they’d need to save) and try to find a compromise between features and price.
How Will They Use It?
When finding the right phone, a big thing to think about is how they will use it. If your child is only going to use it to play games, do they really need one? If they just want to chat with friends while they are at home, could they do that on a device that they already own? Such as a tablet or games console?
On the other hand, if they want it for communication when they are out, a phone is really the best option. Then, think about any specific needs that they have, and apps that they need (perhaps apps that their school use) and make sure they are available on any device that you consider.
Where Can They Access Wi-Fi?
SIM-only deals and phone contracts today come with a huge range of benefits. Most offer free minutes and texts, as well as data. Nowadays, it’s often the data element that really raises the costs. So, ask yourself honestly how much data they are likely to need. If they can connect to Wi-Fi at home, at friends’ houses and other locations, their data needs might be fairly limited.
Look at Parental Controls
Most mobile phones are designed with adults in mind. This means that they don’t automatically come with any parental controls. But there are apps that you can download to monitor usage and set limits for your children. This is something worth thinking about before you give them free rein.
Don’t Forget Insurance
If you are going to let your child out of the house with an expensive mobile phone, make sure you get it insured. Check out family policies, or make sure it’s added to your existing policy.
Buying your child their first mobile phone is a big step. So, take your time, talk it through with them, and find a handset and contract that pleases them, without costing you far more than it’s worth.
Have you bought the first mobile phone for your child already?
*Disclosure: This is a Collaborative Post
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Lydia C. Lee says
I got a dumb phone for my youngest when she started walking home by herself. I made the other two wait til end of year 7 for an iphone, but she’ll get one at the start of year 7. It’s not ideal but it just gets harder and harder to hold your ground. #KCACOLS
Fiona Cambouropoulos says
Phones were always a no till secondary school for mine, but I’m sure it all gets earlier now #KCACOLS
Cady Schulman says
We got our daughter a phone when she was around 8 because she was riding home from school with another family every day. We wanted to be able to get a hold of her because the friend of ours driving her didn’t always answer her phone. We started out with a cheap, basic phone from Walmart, and we have upgraded her as she has been very mature and responsible with it, following all of our rules. #KCACOLS
I was almost thirty when I got my first mobile phone but that has more to do with how old I am. My daughter is bugging me, she’s nine. Its going to be a few more years #KCACOLS
Dana, A Mamanista Life says
Great advice and like you I believe the right time depends on the individual child. My eldest had her first phone at the end of year 6, when she began her trial walk home with her friends in preparation for secondary school.
My 8yr old techno addict son has been bugging me for a while now. Although, I will hang on as long as I can xx #KCACOLS
Jade Page says
Its such a hard decision to make but these tips are really helpful. My kids are still little so we don’t need phones yet but as soon as they are going out on their own I think I would want them to have a phone so they can contact me. #KCACOLS
Crummy Mummy says
My 9 year old is desperate for her own phone but we’ve said not until she’s travelling to school alone in a couple of years – I think that will be the right time for us #KCACOLS
Helen Best says
I was in my 30s before I got my first mobile as I wasn’t interested then & they were like bricks the size of them lol & my daughter was 15 as she was starting to go places with friends but now my grandchildren are 14 & 16 & now to me it’s so important to have them xx
Laura Wheatley says
My eldest daughter got a phone when she started secondary, she is in y9 now and just broke her phone yesterday, she is gutted! so I am on the lookout for a new phone for her now! my 11yr old just recently got a phone too, I keep a close eye on them, they are mainly just for peace of mind really
Katie B says
Both of the kids have their own mobiles. We want to make sure they have some way of contacting us should they get into trouble. They also love pokemon go!
Carolyn E says
It’s a tough call. Their their friends obviously get theirs way earlier than they do whatever age it is.