How To Choose A Phone For Your Child and Deciding when the time is right to allow your children to have a phone can be difficult. You need to be sure that they are responsible enough to look after it and use it safely.
If you have decided the time is right, you then need to decide which phone to get them, which is another difficult choice. How do you decide? Do they need a very basic phone for emergencies, or is it time for a smartphone?
In order to choose the right phone, there are some questions to ask yourself first to help you make the best pick. You should consider the practical aspects, like the cost of the phone and how much your child can be trusted to not damage or lose it, as well as considering their responsibility in using the phone safely.
How To Choose A Phone For Your Child
What will the phone be used for?
What do you want your child to use their phone for? Have they just started high school and need a phone for emergencies? Are they a bit older and able to responsibly use the web and play games on their phones?
Are they asking for a phone to keep up with their friends outside of school hours? Are you separated from your partner and want your child to have a phone so you can text them while they are with their other parent?
Decide on some ground rules for phone use, and sit down with the children to discuss this. Make sure that they understand the potential dangers of mobile phones and the rules you are setting. Help them to understand why you are setting the rules that you are.
The future use of the phone is a good place to start with deciding on the right model of the phone. An emergency phone can be much more basic than a phone that will be used for the internet and apps.
Should you get a smartphone?
Smartphones usually include a color touchscreen, a camera, and internet access. They are usually more expensive than the more basic models. As well as working as a phone, a smartphone can be used for games, social media, and other apps.
If you are thinking about a smartphone, it might be wise to consider an unlimited data plan for older children to avoid surprise high bills from app usage. A phone like this is generally not suitable for younger children who aren’t ready for access to the internet.
A good alternative for younger children is a feature phone. Feature phones are basic, simple to use and only make calls and send texts. They are usually much cheaper, as they don’t tend to have a camera or internet access. This would be a good choice for an emergency phone for young teenagers or children.
Does the child need internet access?
Unrestricted internet access is one of the main reasons that parents worry about giving their children a phone. Chatrooms, inappropriate content or online bullying are all concerns for the safety of children on their phones. Social networks also have a whole host of dangers of their own.
From a phone, the internet can be accessed from WiFi or data. If you don’t want your child to be able to get online, don’t opt for a smartphone. Instead, go for a phone that doesn’t support data use or WiFi.
What phone plan is the most suitable?
There are three options for phone plans; SIM-only, pay monthly and pay as you go.
If you are giving your child an older phone of your phone, then a SIM-only plan is ideal. For a set price, you will get a set amount of minutes, texts and data each month.
You could look into a Family SIM plan to keep a closer eye on their phone usage. You will get one bill for all SIM cards you use and can set a spending cap on any being used by the children, track their data, texts and minutes used and restrict access to some features.
With pay monthly, you can add your child’s phone to an existing pay monthly tariff you have already. Monitor their usage with an itemized bill. It may be worth setting a spending cap to stop them from running up high phone bills.
On traditional pay as you go plans, you top up the phone with credit which can then be used to calls, data or texts. These are less popular now and don’t tend to offer great value.
Have you considered the camera, GPS and Bluetooth?
As well as the obvious internet access, there are some other potential problem areas that you should consider.
Bluetooth is a wireless connection, usually used to connect a phone to nearby speakers to play music without headphones or to connect a headset for hands-free calls. However, if the Bluetooth on the phone is left on, any nearby device with Bluetooth can detect the phone, attempt to connect and send photos.
A request can pop up to share a photo, which your child would have to accept or reject. Turn off the Bluetooth on your child’s phone and make sure they know never to accept requests from strangers.
The phone camera can be a nice way to capture memories or encourage your child’s creative side, but make sure you have a serious chat about where they share photos and videos. Help them to understand how to enjoy the camera safely and without compromising their own or anyone else’s privacy and safety.
The GPS on a phone is used for determining the location of the phone for services like maps. Some social apps also use GPS to allow users to check-in at a specific place.
If the GPS on your child’s phone is switched on, then their location can be posted for their ‘friends’ to see. Make sure their privacy settings are locked down securely on any social apps they use and turn their location settings off so their location isn’t being broadcast.
How can you keep your child safe online?
With all these safety concerns, you might be changing your mind after giving your child a phone at all. Don’t be put off. If you educate them about the potential dangers and do your research, the right phone can be a great way to keep in touch with your children.
Most phone companies offer parental controls, which allow you to restrict access to unsuitable content with filters or blocks on specific websites. There are also apps that you can install onto their phone and yours that allows you to restrict access to certain apps, or monitor their usage.
The best way to keep your children safe online is to choose the right time to buy them a phone. How responsible are they? A responsible child will be receptive to discussions about proper phone usage and online safety. Have regular discussions with them about the phone and how they use it. How does using the phone make them feel?
If you have decided they can be trusted with a phone, keep checking in with them after you have bought them a phone. It’s important to make sure that they aren’t finding online life stressful, and that they are sticking to your rules about how and when the phone is used.
What rules will you set?
To keep the phone usage sensible, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules. If the phone is for usage other than emergencies, some rules are still helpful.
For example, you could ban phones from bedrooms at night to make sure children are going to sleep and not playing on their phones instead. Leave your phone outside of your bedroom too to set a good example, and get a better sleep when your brain isn’t being stimulated by the blue light of your phone screen. Banning phones from the dinner table is another popular choice, to encourage conversation instead of looking at the phone.
You could choose set hours that phones can be used between, or block out some phone-free hours for a family activity like watching a movie together. If you are setting rules like this, keep things fair by not using your phone either.
Set a good example by demonstrating a healthy relationship with your own phone. Leave it to one side during family time (unless you’re using it to take pictures), don’t bring your phone to the dinner table and don’t take it to bed at night. Showing how you can enjoy your phone without being obsessed with it is a great way to help your children to be the same.
With some research and open discussion with your children about phones, you can make a decision about which phone to get and when to give it to them that suits both you and your child.
Keep discussions open and lead through an example on healthy, responsible phone usage. Let your children use their phones to prove to you how grown-up and responsible they can be.