Choosing the right age to give your child a mobile phone can be complicated, to say the least. Some parents wait until their children are teenagers, while others give a phone as soon as the child begins walking to and from school alone. It's worth looking at the issues from all angles to determine if your child is ready for a phone, and what type of contract will be the most suitable option.
Over half of all 12 year olds now have mobile phones, compared to 18% in 2004. It's now increasingly common for parents to give children their first cellular phone when they enter secondary school, around the age of 11. While kids want to have phones to keep up with their peers and text their friends, parents can also benefit from this arrangement. Many parents wish to buy their child a phone for safety reasons, because this allows you to reach your child at any time. As children start travelling alone to school or after-school activities, a phone allows them to contact parents to notify them of last-minute changes or emergencies. If your child is spending more time away from the home, a mobile phone can provide greater peace of mind.
Online Safety Issues
Mobile phone technology has come a long way in the past couple of years. While even five years ago a simple mobile phone would simply allow children to call and text their contacts, today's smartphones provide a far wider range of capabilities. Although you may be mainly interested in providing a phone for safety reasons, kids want phones to communicate with their peers. Smartphones allow them to broadcast their location, status, and photos to the world, and download potentially questionable materials that would be restricted on your home computer. For children younger than 13, it may be best to choose a phone without any internet access. There's also software available to monitor your child's phone usage or restrict internet access to approved sites.
Choosing a Starter Phone and Plan
It's important to keep these safety issues in mind when choosing a starter phone for your child. You can choose between feature phones, which allow them to take photos, send texts, and make phone calls; or smart phones which provide unlimited web access. Another factor to consider is the type of plan to put the new phone on. You could add your child's new mobile to the family plan, or look for pay as you go SIM cards to keep phone expenses within a tighter budget. If you do sign a phone contract, be sure to choose one with replacement insurance and unlimited texting.
For younger children, Lebara pay as you go tariffs can be a good way to keep tabs on spending. Prepaid options also limit internet use, because web access eats through a prepaid amount so quickly. This can help teach your child responsibility by forcing them to pick and choose how and when to use the phone within a set budget.
It's hard to avoid the march to keep up with the latest technology, and in the end choosing a starter mobile phone for your child can make life easier for both of you.
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