As a parent, you’re constantly having to make decisions. What should you make your offspring for dinner? Should you let your kid watch that movie? Should you give your child a mobile phone?
Yeah, some are harder than others and boy, that last one’s a toughie. The problem is that for every pro, there’s seemingly a con. For example:
Pro: Your kids can call you if they need you, and vice versa.
Con: Your kids can rack up big bills if they overdo it on calls to friends.
Pro: Phones are a must-have gadget and your kids will inevitably craze you for one anyway.
Con: The phone they’ll want will be expensive and a target for thieves.
Pro: Internet access helps children research schoolwork, chat to friends, use maps when out and about and more.
Con: Unsupervised, kids can access inappropriate or harmful material, like pornography and sites that promote self-harm, on the web.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg.
Understandably then, the mobile phone issue is one many parents wrestle with. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimise many of the cons. You can’t eliminate them all entirely, but if you do want to give your kid a mobile, these three tips could help protect them – and you.
1. Choose your handset wisely
If you have a young child, consider a very basic handset, capable of calls and texts and not much else. If your child’s older, they’ll probably want a smartphone. The iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S5 are cool gadget to have, but they’re also expensive to replace if lost or broken, and a target for thieves, so it might be cheaper and safer in the long run to go for a more affordable handset.
You might have to endure some grumbling though…
2. Choose pay-as-you-go
While pay-monthly contracts are appealing – especially as they mean you can get a decent mobile phone without having to cough up for it one go – there are more advantages to pay-as-you-go when it comes to getting a mobile phone for your child. It’s easier to manage what they’re spending each month on pay-as-you-go, credit can last a long time if used sensibly, and if the handset is stolen thieves can’t run up any bills beyond the credit on the phone.
What’s more, pay-as-you-go is a good way to teach younger children the value of money – if they only get a certain amount of credit a month, they’ll learn to use it sparingly if they don’t want to run out before their next top-up.
3. Use parental controls
You can use parental controls to block websites and apps you don’t want your children using unsupervised. Some handsets – Windows Phones for example – have these built in, while with others – like Android phones and iPhones – you’ll need to download an app to get them. So, if you’re worried about what your kid might look at when you’re not there to supervise, use these to keep them on the straight and narrow.
The ultimate question
So, should you let your child have a mobile phone? Most parents, it seems, decide the pros outweigh the cons – a recent broadbandchoices.co.uk study found that more than half the children aged 10 or under in the UK already have a mobile phone, but that obviously doesn’t automatically make it the right thing for your child.
Ultimately, while it’d be nice and convenient if there was a Big Book of Parenting that supplied indisputable answers to this sort of problem, the truth is the decision is entirely down to you. If you think child is ready for a mobile, then trust your instincts – just remember to take steps to keep them – and your bank account – under control.
Disclaimer: BroadbandChoices provided some exclusive insights to make this post possible.