*Spoiler alert: no parental judgement in this blog post!
The age that children are getting their own mobile phones seems to be getting younger and younger every year. When a child started secondary level education (around 11 or 12 years old) the norm was that they were presented with a mobile phone. Then younger siblings complained that they wanted one too and so now there really does not seem to be a milestone age at which a child is granted a mobile phone. A recent report by Ofcom found that half of all ten year olds have their own mobile phone and one third of 8-11 year olds follow vloggers or YouTube Influencers (Ofcom, 2020).
One of the main reasons that parents buy their child a phone is that everyone else has one. Now I don’t know about you, but do you remember telling your parents that you did something because someone else did it? “If so and so stuck their head in a fire, would you do it to?” was the typical response! The attitude from parents was, I don’t care what anyone else is doing, what matters to me is what you are doing. Yet as parents, we do fear our children are missing out (perhaps because we ourselves know that feeling too well) and so we desperately want them to fit in with their peers. The last thing we want is for them to feel left out and so we succumb to the peer pressure.
Safety, of course, is another justification given. If they are at a friends’ house/school trip, we want them to be able to contact us and so we spend an awful lot of money on a tiny computer with an easily breakable screen which has access to the world wide web and somehow we feel that by them carrying this around with them in their pocket, they are safer.
Every child is of course quite different in terms of maturity levels, naivety, family environment etc. and so no specific age at which they should get a mobile phone can be recommended.
However, here are a few questions to consider when deciding if your child is ready to have their first mobile phone:
- Are they responsible enough to look after something very small and expensive when they are out and about?
- What do they want to use it for? For example, do they just to play games or take photos? if so, maybe consider a tablet or camera instead.
- Who will your child likely be communicating with on their phone? Consider their friendship circles and peer groups and whether connecting with them online will be a positive experience – maybe your child is mature, but their classmates are not!
- Are they of age and understanding to grasp that not everyone or everything is what it seems online?
- Are you prepared to spend considerable time explaining to your child about the risks of communicating with people online, giving out their personal details, entering fake competitions, online trolls and cyber bullying?
- Will they be allowed to use their phone unrestricted, any time day or night? Or will there be boundaries and limits put in place?
- Who is going to pay for the running of the phone? i.e. SIM cards and/or phone bills.