People of all ages have mobile phones, including children, but just because kids are given mobile phones, it doesn’t mean that it is such a great idea. Older kids are responsible enough to take care of a mobile phone, but younger kids are less so. Of course you might not want to hand a new iPhone 5s to a 5 year old permanently, but what about letting them play with your phone for half an hour while you cook dinner—is this a risky proposition or can you relax and get on with chopping the onions in peace?
Reasons Why You Might Give Your Child a Mobile Phone
Keep in touch – It makes sense for an absent parent to give their child a mobile phone. Even if the phone is on the cheapest SIM only tariff with very few free minutes and text messages, at least the parent will be able to call the child directly whenever they want to. Mobile phones are also useful if a child goes to school far away from home, for example a boarding school. The child can use their phone to keep in touch during term time, which should help to stave off the pangs of homesickness.
Entertainment value – Mobile phones offer great entertainment value. Kids of all ages can listen to music on their mobiles, play games, and surf the internet if they have a decent data allowance and the phone is internet enabled. They may also be able to use social networking websites on a smartphone.
Emergencies – Modern children are a busy lot. Your children probably take part in numerous after-school clubs and weekend activities, which means that they (and you) are continually running here, there and everywhere. At least if you give a child a mobile phone they have the means to call you if they need a lift home or the club has been cancelled.
The Pros of Giving a Child a Mobile Phone
There are lots of reasons why giving your child a mobile phone could be a good move, although it does depend on the age of the child. So if you are not convinced, read the following list and see if you agree.
Big Brother is watching – The beauty of giving a mobile phone to a child is that you can always get hold of them. Instead of frantically ringing round their friends’ houses when they don’t show up for dinner, you can call them directly and save yourself a lot of grief.
Mom’s taxi – Kids sometimes need a lift from school or a sporting activity. Although it can be a huge inconvenience to drag the car out, wouldn’t you rather be inconvenienced than belatedly discover your child had to walk home alone in the dark?
Five minutes peace – Instead of listening to a seven year old crying and squawking for fifty miles down the M1, let them have your iPhone so they can play a game and allow you to drive in peace.
The Cons of Giving a Child a Mobile Phone
Big bills – the main reason why many parents don’t want to give their child a mobile phone is because they are concerned about the prospect of a huge bill. However, there are ways around this problem. Instead of signing up for a long contract, buy a pay as you go or SIM only tariff instead so your costs are capped and you are not locked in for two years.
Lost or damaged phone – Younger children have no concept of value and giving them an expensive mobile phone is the equivalent of throwing a wad of fifty pound notes into the toilet bowl and pressing ‘flush’. They may be begging for a mobile because BFF Lucinda or Tristan has one, but it is not a good idea if they are not yet at secondary school.
It’s a mug’s game – Children carrying expensive mobile phones are at risk of being mugged by opportunistic thieves, especially if they live in an inner city area where crime rates are higher.
How Old Does a Child Need to Be to Own a Mobile Phone?
This is a subjective issue. Just because one child is mature enough to treat an expensive mobile phone with the respect it deserves, another child of the same age might not be. In general, children 10 and under lack the maturity to look after a mobile phone and use it sensibly. That said, there are plenty of teenagers who are more than capable of running up huge bills and leaving their mobile on the college bus, so don’t assume maturity comes with age.
If you are convinced your child needs a mobile phone, check out comparison websites first, and if you do invest in a new iPhone or similar, make sure you take out phone insurance at the same time.