When To Buy My Child A Mobile Phone?

It’s a problem that our parents never had. When I was growing up only “Yuppies” and Real Estate Agents had mobile phones, and they were “Car Phones”.

When I first started dating my wife (at the tender age of 18) and I wanted to talk to her on the phone, I had to call the house. Every time her mother would answer the phone, a daunting prospect the first couple of times. Then almost every call there would be the wind-up from the parents saying that we were tying up the line and that someone else might be wanting to call (usually other sister’s boyfriends).

iPhone 2g, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4

These days it seems that most teenagers in the western world have a mobile phone of their own. And most, if not all, parents face the pressure from their child (often from a very early stage) to by one for them. So when is the appropriate time to buy a mobile phone for your child? Is there an appropriate time? Or should you wait until they get a job and can afford it themselves?

These are questions that every parent needs to think about before rushing out to buy the first pre-paid phone they see on a supermarket checkout.

It’s Not An Age Thing

In my opinion there is no right age, more a right mindset for owning a phone. Your child needs to understand the responsibilities, social etiquette and privileges that come with owning a phone. Often, as with many things, kids think they “deserve” a phone, simply because “everyone else has one”.

Set Rules

Most schools require kids to have mobile phones turned off and in their bags whilst in class. I have great sympathy for the teachers trying to enforce this. But you should also set some rules surrounding phone use at home too.

At home your rules might look something like this:

  1. No phones at the dinner table (this goes for parents too!)
  2. No phones after 9pm
  3. No phones in bedrooms
  4. When possible use WiFi and online messaging instead of SMS

The first three are similar to how you might want to handle home computer use. Have common courtesy during familty time, make it visible so that you know what your kids are doing and limit the use so they aren’t up until all hours chatting with their friends.

Back in the day it would have been made very clear that it was not appropriate to be calling the house after 9pm. Just because the technology has changed, doesn’t mean that respect of other’s peace should.

The last one has to do with avoiding bill shock. It is astounding the number of SMS messages that kids are sending these days, and depending on the plan, they can rack up a pretty big bill very quickly. Sending data (text) via SMS is one of the most expensive options.

Ready To Buy

If your child can demonstrate that they understand how their billing works, know what can contribute to “bill-shock”, and agree to your own household rules regarding phone use, then they may be ready for a phone.

Once you have decided that your child is ready for a phone, you only have to tackle the issue of what type of phone to get and what type of plan to put them on. But these are topics for another post.

I’d love to hear your experiences with kids and mobile phones, so leave a comment below.

Good Luck!