Should Your Child
Have A Mobile Phone?
Kids and mobile phones
It’s hard to get any hard and fast stats on actual mobile phone penetration with people aged under 18, but according to RaisingChildren.net.au, mobile phone usage across the nation is something like this:
- 76 per cent of kids aged 12-14 years have a mobile
- 90 per cent of teens aged 15-17 years have a mobile
- On average, boys aged 11-18 years spend one hour and 14 minutes consuming mobile media
- The average for girls of the same age is one hour and 58 minutes.
Many parents wonder, “At what age should I give my kids a mobile phone?” According to some experts, however, that’s not the question you should be asking. The real issue you need to address is, if you go ahead and give your child a phone, what are they going to do with it?
Development psychologist Dr. Cornelia Brunner says we need to “move away from the device, and to the activity.”
“We need to talk with [our kids] about what they are doing with it and make sure we understand that,” she says.
“We keep thinking our kids are addicted to the phone, but it's not the device – it's the things they are doing with the device [that we need to monitor].”
RaisingChildren.net.au, which is produced in partnership with the Australian government, found that kids do a lot more than make calls and texts on their phones: they also take photos, play games, listen to the radio and watch videos.
Games and premium text message content is where you can get into trouble from a billing perspective. There has been more than one parent in the headlines lamenting an outrageous phone bill at the hands of their child, such as Sean Clark who wound up with a $10,000 monthly bill for his daughter's premium text messages – or John Gibson, whose grandkids racked up an $11,000 charge for streaming videos on his phone.
Factors to consider
When it comes time to decide which is the right age to give your child their own phone, unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all solution, but there are a few areas you can ponder while making your decision.
- As your child approaches high school, it’s likely that their classmates will start getting their own mobile phones, prompting your pre-teen to want one, too. Rather than saying “yes” or “no” immediately, ask why he/she feels it’s important to have their own phone and calmly put your reasons forward if you decide to deny their request.
- Consider giving your child a “shared” phone to begin with – this could be a phone that they share with you, your partner and/or their siblings. This encourages open usage of the phone as it takes some privacy away from personal communication, and allows you to monitor their activity.
- Put provisions in place to avoid bill shock, such as getting your kids a pre-paid phone.
- Ensure that your data plan is suitable and discuss multimedia usage with your child, to ensure they don’t download videos and songs that cost you a fortune in data charges.
- Establish rules that outline when they’re allowed to use their phone eg. after school is fine; at the dinner table or taking their phone to bed is not.
- Discuss and agree upon the consequences if the rules you set are broken.
- Find out your child’s school’s policy on mobile phone usage and make sure your child knows what it is.