I have written before about when it is a good time to get your child a computer. The same thoughts, if not more go into when to get your child a mobile phone. As previously mentioned in AT T-Mobile Kids are Free until 2012 with a Family Plan, my twin girls who are 7 now have prepaid phones to carry around for emergency purposes that their Dad purchased. They have just a few minutes, like 50 I think that carry over. Security is the main reason that most parents would get their young children phones. And with this responsibility comes some concerns. Do your children have mobile phones? If so, how old are they?
It’s a controversial issue, and one that has been highly debated in the past. At what age should a child be allowed to own a mobile phone? How can you tell, with the many problems that owning a phone presents, when your child is mentally prepared enough to handle the responsibility of this kind of gadget without losing it, breaking it or getting up to some other kind of mischief?
In January earlier this year, the News of the World reported the astounding figure that 50% of all children aged between seven and nine years old own a mobile phone. For all children aged between seven and fifteen, seventy five percent have one. The average age for a child to get their first phone is eight, in spite of government issued recommendations several years ago that anyone under sixteen shouldn’t be using a mobile. That, of course, has become a ridiculous suggestion. Most high school children would instantly protest not having a mobile throughout the pre-teen years, a period at which social interaction is key and texting becomes the primary means of communication.
You may ask what the risks are of a younger child owning a mobile phone. A key scare is that the child may give away their number to someone suspicious, or that they will be targeted through their mobile, as evidenced by a number of cases in which children were being bullied via text messaging. If the phone has internet access, as more and more do these days, there is also the danger of children accessing inappropriate content. Hundreds of young people have been scammed through campaigns to buy ring tones, or “funny” applications. By texting a code to a certain number, children think they are buying one thing whilst actually they are signing up often to be charged a substantial amount of money a week.
There arises the issue of money – in 2009, a survey revealed that generous parents had shelled out a total of £374million on children’s mobile phone bills. The average phone bill for a child is £10.50 a month. The best way to control your child’s mobile phone spending is to keep them on a pay as you go phone and only top it up at distinct intervals – they don’t need credit for you to get in touch with them, after all.