Is a phone at the top of your child’s Christmas list? You’re not alone. The age where kids get their first phone is getting lower and lower, so it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular gifts among children and teens.
But owning a phone is a big responsibility - even some adults can’t handle it! Phones open up a whole new world, which is why it’s important your child stays safe when using theirs. Like getting a pet or a new bike, you need to teach your child to be responsible with their exciting new gift.
From teaching them to be safe online to making sure they don’t spend your money, there is a lot to consider when buying your child a phone. Take a look at the following tips to make sure this top gift is the best present for your child this Christmas.
Make sure they’re really ready
While your child might think they want a phone, they might not necessarily be ready for one. According to Internet Matters, most parents allow their kids to have a phone at 10 years of age. But as you know, every child is different. You know the maturity of your own child, but if they’re quite clumsy and forgetful, then you might want to think twice about handing an expensive item to your child.
For parents, mobile phones can be a good way to stay in touch with your children. When they head to high school, it can be reassuring to get in touch with them if they’re going to be late home from school.
There’s also the internet to consider, as a child will be able to use the internet on their phones wherever they are, unsupervised. Letting them use a tablet at home for a while first can help prepare your child and you for using the internet responsibly.
If, for any reason, you still don’t feel comfortable with your child having a phone, delay the process for another six months - you could revisit the conversation around their birthday or in the summer holidays instead!
Don’t buy the latest model
When buying a phone, you don’t want to rush out and buy them a top of the range model, costing £1,000+. Instead, opt for something more affordable that can fit into your budget easier. There are options to buy used or refurbished mobile phones, which still allow them to access great features.
For a first phone, you won’t want to go crazy. If your child can show that they can look after their phone, then you can consider upgrading their phone.
A phone is an expensive purchase for you, so you’ll want to think about financing it. You could buy a phone outright with a pay as you go SIM, or pay monthly to make it more affordable in the short-term. There are some great family mobile plans you might want to consider to help you save money on multiple phone contracts.
While insurance is an added expense that comes with a mobile phone, it’s worth it should something happen to your child’s phone. A new screen can cost anywhere from £60 upwards, while loss or theft will require shelling out for a brand new phone.
You can get some great phone insurance deals to keep your costs down. Many banks offer tech cover as a perk for being an account holder, so you should check to see if your bank offers this service. Don’t take the chance - get your child’s device insured.
Set ground rules
It’s a good idea to set some ground rules for your child, helping to stop bad habits from forming. Some good rules to get you started include:
- Setting out what their plan involves - how many messages, calls, etc. Make it clear that they shouldn’t go above any allowances.
- The same goes for data - make sure they’re aware of their data limit and make sure the phone’s settings prevent them from rolling over. You could even make it so that they need to ask permission before they download something.
- Set rules for using the phone within social situations. No phone at the dinner table, not using it when there’s company, etc. You can set the rules according to how you see them, and make sure you follow the same rules at home too.
It’s important that you enforce these rules to help your child become a responsible phone user. Put penalties in place for breaking the rules, including confiscating the phone.
Teach them about online safety
The most vital thing to consider when it comes to your child getting a smartphone is teaching them about online safety. It’s important that they’re made aware of the dangers of the internet and how to use it responsibly.
Some top tips for keeping children safe when using mobile phones include teaching them how to keep their personal information private, what apps are safe and how to browse safely online. Make it clear that they can come to you if they have any questions or concerns, at any time. You should trust your child, but keep a watchful eye on their activities too.
It helps if you stay up to date with online safety too. Stay clued up on the latest scams and online threats so that you can teach your child to stay safe too.
Protect your payments
It’s a lot easier to put controls in place for phone payments. Years ago, it was easy for kids to make purchases via their parents’ app store accounts and rack up a huge bill. Luckily, you can disable in-app purchases to make it simple to stop unprecedented spending. If your child wants to purchase something, they’ll need to ask you first.
Talk to them about cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a serious problem amongst children, which is why it’s essential that you talk to them about it. While you can protect your child from cyberbullying, you should also make sure that it’s not your child doing the cyberbullying. Teach them about how words can be hurtful, even if they’re anonymous or behind a screen.
Children can experience a number of mental health issues, with cyberbullying being a key factor. You should look out for behavioural changes as well as any signs that something isn’t right. If you suspect that your child is being cyberbullied, intervene as soon as possible. Cyberbullying can have some serious consequences, so the sooner you put an end to it, the better for you and your child. It’s worth reading some of the lessons learned during this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week to help you understand more about social media and your child.