There was a time when only sales reps and yuppies had mobile phone. They then became compulsory accessories for adults, and now every child has one; or so your daughter would have you believe.
When Do You Buy a Phone for Your Child?
Children of primary school age often have a mobile phone. Some parents hold out, but the pressure to conform becomes inexorable as your son or daughter progresses through school.
A lot depends on your own arrangements. Some children need a phone so they can make arrangements to be picked up from school or sports practice. In the early years of primary school few children actually need a mobile phone. They may see others with them and want one, of course, but that is a different matter.
If your arrangements are predictable, as most parents’ arrangements to pick up their children are, then you should avoid giving your child a phone.
Having a phone is a big responsibility. It is another item that is easily lost or damaged that you will need to replace at least twice a year.
Does Your Child Understand Money?
Phones come with associated costs and your child needs to understand that using the phone costs money and that your money is limited.
One solution is to find a package where that includes one number free. That way your son or daughter can always call you if they have no credit.
Pre-paid phones are the almost universal choice for a child’s phone. Otherwise you can find a bill for £300 arriving at the end of the month.
If your child has problems sticking to his or her weekly pocket money allowance, then the concept of a £10 a month pre-paid phone card is going to be impossible to grasp. You could promise a phone once they learn to manage their own money.
Does Your Child Need a Mobile Phone?
The concept of need is one that no child understands. Needs and desires are totally the same thing to children. This is something that only you can decide.
There are degrees of need, too. A child may need a phone to avoid being different from her friends. We don’t want our children to feel as though they are the charity case. We know that that is a distorted view, but a child has a different perspective. Balancing the family budget does not even enter into their protected world, so how can it be a priority?
Most children have a mobile phone before they leave primary school. Almost all will have a basic pre-paid phone that allows them to make phone calls and texts. Free text packages are available on some networks and these are a great idea. Having one means that even when they have no credit they can still text you and friends; they are never totally cut off.
A very small number will have a smart phone as their first phone, but many will have an iPhone or similar top of the range smart phone as they move on to secondary school.
Written by Joanne Halsall, a mother who has just had to buy a refurbished iPhone 4 under pressure from her 11 year old daughter