How old a child should be to get their first mobile phone as parents start Christmas shopping

Parents across the land have started their Christmas shopping – and many children may have a mobile phone on their gift list.

Your child may be asking for their first phone and you might be wondering if they are ready for it. There may be concerns about youngsters staying safe online and whether they will spend too much time on their new device.

At the same time, giving them a phone could give you peace of mind, knowing they will be able to contact you in an emergency. For this reason, some parents decide to give their children a phone when they start secondary school.

But what is the right age to give your child a mobile phone? And how do you make that decision?

Internet Matters, an organisation that helps parents keep their children safe online, has some advice on the issue. It says: “The recommended age for a child’s first mobile is around 11 but we know that children as young as six have phones nowadays.”

The team says it is down to parents themselves to judge what the right age is. It adds that it may be worth considering the following before gifting children a phone:

  • Are they open and honest of the type of content they currently engage in? What do they watch on Youtube? What games do they play?
  • Are they tech-savvy?
  • How responsible and mature are they such as doing chores, being kind and honest?

“Parents can make the judgement whether a child is ready for a phone. We recommend sitting them down and setting up a clear agreement so they know what is appropriate or inappropriate use,” the team suggests.

“Smartphones offer children the ability to be connected to the internet wherever they are, but keeping kids safe from potentially the harmful side of the digital world, can be a big task. So whether you are gifting your child a new phone or it’s their first, it’s important to consider setting up controls on their device.

“The majority of smartphones today have pre-installed parental controls or are part of the system where you can buy them. Also, there are parental apps and softwares in the market you could use to supplement these controls.”

The safety experts also warn that many games and apps are linked to purchasing tokens to “get to the next level” and could possibly result in kids accidentally running-up bills. So it may be worthwhile disabling in-app downloads and purchases. Alternatively, you can look at sim only deals that offer the usage limits your child needs.

You can find step-by-step instructions on setting up parental controls on mobile phones here.

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