“When can I get a phone Dad?”
How many times have you heard this already this year; or even, today?
For parents, the hardest thing about the decision to get their kids a phone, is knowing when to and how to go about doing it.
Here are some tips to consider, before you go splashing the cash and handing over what could be a fortune to your progeny!
1) HOW READY ARE THEY?
Once you give your kid one of these things, the bird has flown the cage, so to speak. There’s no going back, in other words. You cannot ungive them the phone and trying to reverse the decision is going to be difficult. To put it mildly.
Don’t get too hung up on what their friends are doing. Although this may be an indicator of the age group which may be suitable for a phone, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be right for your child.
You need to consider also their friendship group. Are they mature enough to handle being granted access to each other, night and day? Because this is effectively what you are doing by handing over a phone to them,
Does your son or daughter have any other responsibilities? For example, do you give them the keys to the house?
Are they likely to lose the thing? If your kid is still liable to leave things lying around unguarded, it may be too early to entrust them with a phone.
Do your kids have any chores or jobs about the house that they do? Can they even be trusted to do these? If they can’t, maybe think again about giving them a phone.
2) PREPARE THEM CAREFULLY
Before you hand them over a phone of their own, you need to show them how to use it. This should extend much further than simply knowing how to use the actual phone functions.
They also need to be educated about online safety, cyber bullying and the dangers that strangers may pose.
It is not only the workings of the phone they need to know about, unfortunately, it is also the workings of the world.
Give them an idea of what’s safe and what’s not and what to look out for. Always assure them they can come to you if they encounter anything that doesn’t look right.
3) TAKE SOME CONTROL
You need to take control of the usage of your kid’s phone. Whether that means using it in front of you, when you are at home, or being restrictive about when they may use it.
However, this will not be enough usually. Parental control apps are a vital tool for any parent giving a phone to their child.
Research all the options carefully and ensure you have the app you want, set to your required perimeters.
Some apps can let a parent see everything that a child does on their phones. Some may send an alert when certain words are used by them or to them.
Although your child may try and tell you this is their privacy, you also need to ensure their safety. Having a parental app should be part and parcel of them having a phone and using it responsibly.
4) NOW SIGN THE CONTRACT
…Not the contract for the phone! Whether you even decide to go with a contract phone or just opt for the relative peace of mind of a pay as you go, is your choice.
We would firmly recommend drawing up your own family contract, between you and your child.
This should include a list of things like when the phone is to be used and when it should be switched off.
When the phone should be charged.
Whether you allow internet access and the times this will be permitted (this may also be curtailed by the app).
Whether you allow anyone else to use the phone.
How many calls and texts they may use.
What the relevant data charges are for each service.
How the bill is worked out and what happens if you go over.
What happens if any of the rules and terms are broken.
It is in everyone’s interests to know where they stand before you hand over that long awaited first mobile phone to your child!