What's The Right Age To Give Your Child A Mobile Phone?

  • Parents Only

Giving your child their own mobile phone is a rite of passage, some would say it's the new 'teaching your kid to drive' as it comes with its own risks, lessons and responsibilities. Yet, unlike getting your drivers license, buying a mobile phone for your child doesn't come with strict national guidelines. Parents are left to make their own decisions around this matter, with lots of things to weigh up.

While the average age that a child receives their first mobile phone is around 10.3 years old, this won't necessarily be the right fit for your child. Only you as a parent will know the right age. We've compiled a checklist of questions to consider before you take the mobile phone plunge. 

Is Your Child Responsible Enough For A Mobile Phone? 

Does your child lose things like they're going out of fashion? Do they break things at the drop of a hat? A smart phone is expensive to replace or be repaired. It may not be the right time if you think your child can't be trusted with an expensive piece of equipment. If you really want them to have one, perhaps a cheaper mobile phone like the old push-button Nokia would make the best first-phone for your child. 

Is Your Child Mature Enough For A Mobile Phone?

These days kids (and ourselves) need to think about the consequences of their social media footprint. Does your child understand that anything they post online stays online forever?

Then there's the serious issue of cyber bullying. Is your child mature enough to talk to you if they receive any upsetting messages? While we can't protect our kids from this, and even the most mature of children are likely to be affected by hurtful communications, it's important to have a conversation about these issues with your child before giving them a mobile phone.

Is Your Child Disciplined Enough For A Mobile Phone?

Phones can suck away hours of our time without us even realising (ask any adult!), so will your child have enough self control to put the phone down? Spending too much time on phones has serious health risks. Phones emit “blue light” which can disrupt our sleep, and spending too much time playing with a phone can affect your child's concentration skills. Biologically, the impulse-control part of the brain doesn’t stop developing until the mid-20s- so kids and teens won’t know when to stop (what's our excuse?!). Try to set boundaries for phone usage and if you're really worried you could always install a parental control app to limit time spent.

It could even be time to look at your own phone habits - after all, you are the role model... 

Can Your Child Afford A Mobile Phone?

While you might gift your child the phone, can they contribute to their monthly phone plan? This can be a great opportunity to teach them to value of money by getting them to pay for some or all of the bill themselves or even earn the right to have the phone plan. We think it's best to start with a prepaid phone plan designed for kids, rather than a plan with a fixed monthly commitment. OVO do a $9.95 monthly prepaid plan with 2GB of data, 500 minutes of calls and, most importantly, unlimited texts so your child can always message you (even when they have spent their monthly data allowance on YouTube). This plan also has the added security of free cyber safety with Family Zone so you can control their online usage even when they are outside the house. It's kind of the perfect starting out plan for first-time phone users. 

Is Your Child Emotionally Ready For A Phone?

A recent British study shows that girls aged 10-12 are particularly vulnerable, with more time spent on social media associated with more emotional and behavioural problems in later adolescence. For both genders there is proven emotional damage of smartphones and social media networks on kids, because they promote an over-reliance on peer validation. The key here is limitation. And don't feel bad, Steve Jobs limited his kids’ use of technology and even prohibited them from using the iPad when it was released. Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft, didn’t allow his kids to have their own phones until they turned 14. You are not a monster (even if you feel like one), you are protecting them in the long run. 

This article was sponsored by OVO.... find out more about their child-friendly plans here.  

 

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