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 picked 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 eye on them.
Giving your kids a mobile can help to put your mind at rest while they’re out and about. But there are obvious concerns when it comes to giving them the internet in the palm of their hands. And that brings with it potential issues, from staying safe online to social media addiction and 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 kids are requesting ‘must-have’ gadgets at younger and younger ages.
It’s a tricky one but the decision is yours to make. We’re simply going to give you some info to help you make that decision.
How young is too young?
Having CBeebies apps on hand at any given moment can be a saviour for parents of tantrumming toddlers. But is it a bit extreme to buy them a phone before they’re old enough to call and text?
It seems most of us think ‘yes’. A recent survey by Opinium found that on average, UK children had a phone by age 7 and a smartphone by 10.
However, 65% of parents said they didn’t think children should have their own phone until they’re at least 9. And almost 29% said that 12 was a more appropriate age.
So, which phone is the right phone?
Not sure you’ll be able to fob your child off with your trusty old Nokia from the 90s? Picking the best make and model for them can be tricky. Here are 6 key things worth thinking about when you’re on the hunt for the best phone for your kids.
What do you want them to do with it?
First, think about how you want your child to use the phone. Do you want to give them the power to call and text? Or are you happy for them to have internet access and to use apps?
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?
Let’s face it – kids phones get shoved in the bottom of school bags and dropped on the floor. And a phone with a larger screen’s easier to drop and smash, than something more compact that fits in their pocket.
Look for something that’s hard-wearing or even water-repellent and get a cover for added protection. It’s a good idea to invest in some insurance too.
Make sure it’s picture-perfect
You may be sick of those dog face filters, but never underestimate the importance of the selfie. If you’re going to get a phone with a camera, a front-facing one’s a must.
If you’re getting a smartphone for all the features and functions, avoid anything with less than 16GB of internal storage. Media can be saved to cloud services like Google Photos and iCloud, but it’s worth having enough space for games and apps.
Pay Monthly or Pay As You Go?
A Pay As You Go phone is the best way to help keep costs to a minimum. And it can help teach your child to be more responsible. Pay As You Go means you can only call, text, and browse when you’ve got enough credit available.
But what if you’ve got an older child that wants to use data all the time? A Pay Monthly plan with Unlimited data may be a better option.
And the big question: how much are you willing to spend?
Going for Pay As You Go? Then you’ll be pleased to know that don’t need to spend loads to get a phone with impressive features.
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 1 – £29.99 on Pay As You Go
This little beauty might be basic, but it’s compact and hardwearing. It’s perfect for a first phone, with enough power for up to 8 days on standby. 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 phone that’s great for younger children.
Samsung Galaxy A10 – £139.99 on Pay As You Go
This phone ticks all the boxes for an affordable smartphone. The Infinity-V screen with an HD+ display makes it ideal for gaming and streaming videos. And the respectable 13MP rear camera and 5MP front cameras take bright, clear photos – a ‘must-have’ for any tween.
Verdict: with solid specs, it’s a great choice for older, more tech-savvy kids.
iPhone 6s – £295 on Pay As You Go
If your child is lucky, you may consider getting them an iPhone. But treating them to the latest iPhone could feel like a step too far. Everyone loves a compromise, and the iPhone 6s is just that. And it also happens to be the cheapest Apple smartphone on Pay As You Go, too.
As well as the benefits of iOS, it comes with a front-facing camera and the all-important Find My iPhone. Essential for when it accidentally gets left on the bus.
Verdict: reliable, quality phone for older kids, and flush parents.
Before you hand over the goods, block access to sites that are unsuitable for under-18s by turning on the parental controls.
Main image: Getty via Scott Barbour