Fact: every child, of every age, wants a mobile phone. Issue: Parents have mixed feelings about when is the right time to buy a phone for their children, not to mention which make and model to get. Solution: we're here to help with some tips on what you should be looking out for when it comes to buying your mini-me their first mobile.
Text me when you get there; give me 3 rings; message me when you need picking up… There’s no denying that giving your child a mobile is pretty handy and phones are good when you want to make sure they’re safe and keep a virtual beady eye on them.
And with GPS tracking apps like Footprints you can literally watch their every move, aka stalk them superbly without them even knowing.
Did he really go round to Matt’s? Why has he stopped at the pub? Please tell me she’s not really trying to get into that nightclub again???!!!
While paranoid parents of adolescents can rest a bit easier when their kids are out and about with a mobile, there are obvious concerns when it comes to giving them the internet in the palm of their hands. And that whole Pandora’s box of potential issues, from social media addiction to selfie obsession.
So what age is reasonable to get your little darling a phone of their own?
There was a time when going off to secondary school seemed a good point to get them connected, but as with all technology, kids are requesting ‘must-have’ gadgets younger and younger.
It’s a tricky one and completely based on you and your little monster; so we’re simply going to give you a bit more info to help you make the decision.
How young is too young?
Having CBeebies apps on hand at any given moment is a win-win for parents of tantrumming toddlers. We whip out our mobiles at the mere hint of a hissy fit, but is it a little extreme to actually buy them one of their own before they’re at an age where they can call and text?
It seems most of us think ‘yes’; in a survey of 1,500 parents by Opinium, on average, UK children had a phone by age 7, an iPad by age 8, and a smartphone by age 10.
Contrary to the stats though, 68% of parents said they didn’t think children should have their own phones until they’re 9 – at the youngest – with nearly 29% saying 12 is a more appropriate age.
So, which phone is the right phone?
If you don’t think you can fob your child off with your trusty old Nokia from the 90s, and you’ve made the decision to get them their own phone, choosing the right make and model is a bit of a minefield. Here are 6 key things it’s worth thinking about when you’re on the hunt for the most fitting mobile for your little cherub…
Well, what do you want them to do with it?
First, it’s worth thinking about how you want your child to use the phone. Do you want to give them the power to call and text – to ONLY call and text, that is – or are you happy for them to have internet access and use apps?
Or maybe you need them to have a good camera because you’re banking on their future careers as professional influencers? If you’re okay with them having a smartphone, then how much do you want to limit certain apps or functions?
Does it need to be bullet-proof?
Much as we love our little ones, it’s pretty likely that their phone is going to be shoved in the bottom of a school bag, or dropped on the bus. If your child is a little, well, careless, it’s worth noting that a phone with a larger screen is much easier to drop and smash on the floor than something more compact that will fit in their pocket.
Make sure it’s picture-perfect
You may be sick to the back teeth of trout pouts and filter frenzies, but never underestimate the importance of the selfie. If you’re going to get a phone with a camera then a front-facing one is a must, otherwise your little one may never forgive you for the level of shame you’ve subjected them to…
If you’re getting a smartphone for all the features and functions, then steer clear of anything with less than 16GB of internal storage. Although media can be saved to cloud services like Google Photos and iCloud, it’s worth having plenty of space to allow for the latest games, apps and downloads.
Contract or Pay As You Go?
A Pay As You Go phone is the best way to help keep costs to a minimum. It can also help you to teach your child to be more responsible, because pre-pay plans mean you can only call, text and browse when there’s enough credit available. Having said that, if your child is a bit older and you know they’ll want to get online all the time, it might be worth considering a contract with Unlimited data so that you get the very best deal. With our Essential Plans you can add blocks to make sure they don’t go over their limits.
And the big question: how much are you willing to spend?
If you decide to go for Pay As You Go, you don’t need to spend masses to get a phone with loads of impressive features. Even though every kid out there wants the latest iPhone, there are some great affordable phones with cameras, apps and games for less than £100. You can’t put a price on knowing where your kids are and feeling like you can contact them at any time, but as with any device, the range of choice is massive, so it’s good to come at this with a budget in mind.
As a starting point, here are a few suggestions:
Alcatel 2045 – £17.99 on Pay As You Go
This little beauty might be cheap and basic, but it’s compact, hardwearing and memory can be expanded up to 32GB with a MicroSD card. It really is ideal for a first phone with enough power for up to 340 hours on standby. If your child is young, you can add the contacts they’ll need with the names they recognise; so if a call comes through without a contact name, they can simply ignore it.
Verdict: a basic handset that’s great for younger children.
Motorola Moto E4 Plus – £139.99 on Pay As You Go
If your child is a bit older and more tech-savvy, they’ll love the fact that this handset comes with the latest Android OS. It might be a budget phone but it has all the latest features from Google, a fingerprint sensor that makes it nice and secure, a 5in display, plus an 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera. Say cheese!
Verdict: perfect for tweenagers.
iPhone SE – £379.99 on Pay As You Go
If your child is super-fussy (and spoilt rotten!) and you’re prepared to get them an iPhone, the latest iPhone (which you probably won’t own yet), could feel like a step too far. Everyone loves a compromise, and the iPhone SE is just that – and also happens to be the cheapest Pay As You Go Apple smartphone. As well as all the benefits of iOS, it comes with a front–facing camera with a flash (selfie-tastic!) and the all-important Find My iPhone for when your little darling leaves it on the bus.
Verdict: reliable, quality phone for older kids and flush parents.
Before you hand over the goods, you should definitely block access to sites that are unsuitable for under-18s by turning on the parental controls.
Main image: Getty via Scott Barbour