The issue of mobile phones is a bone of contention for parents, teachers and kids. What age is it OK for a child to have their own mobile? Is it a good idea to take it school? How can you monitor your child’s use of their mobile – and should you as they get older?
Let’s look at why a child needs a mobile first. Quite apart from the brownie points they get with their friends for being among the first to get their mobile, there are more practical reasons for a child to have a mobile.
If they are walking to and from school, a mobile is a safety device, as it means they have the means to call someone if they experience problems. That could be anything from having an accident to being approached by a stranger.
As long as children are being dropped off and picked up from school or escorted by a parent, the case for a mobile phone is weaker. After all, while they’re at school they don’t need it. They’re under the care of teachers and other school staff and, if they need help, there are adults around to provide it – or call you, if necessary.
However, in the face of peer pressure, as your child gets older they’ll want to keep up with their friends. No matter what you say, being the only one without a mobile when you’re in year 9 can result in all kinds of negative behaviours.
Besides, when your child becomes a young adult and more independent, it’s reassuring for you to know that you can contact them when you’re worried about where they are. It can be the difference between sending out a search party because they haven’t come home when expected and a text or phone call to discover they’ve gone to a friends, stayed to watch a netball match or something else.
The rules of the phone
When you decide to provide a phone for your child, it’s important to start the way you want to go on. These basic rules may help to avoid battles later:
- No phones at the dinner table
- Stick to the school rules about phones
- No phone for an hour before bed
- No phone in the bedroom overnight
- Use the phone to let you know where they are after school
You may have your own rules to add, but these are good practice.
Given that children are pretty good at losing things and mobile phones are expensive pieces of equipment, maybe buy a second-hand phone to get started. Make sure it’s added to the house and contents insurance too.