The right age to give your kids their first phone has been fervently debated. And with phones becoming smarter and smarter and capable of doing much more than just text and call, there’s even more reason to think things through before handing one to your child.
Ultimately, it’s a personal parenting decision, one affected by family structure and dynamics.
Whether you give your kids their first phone at 10 or 15, what’s important is talking to your kids about this big step. You don’t have to make them sign a contract like Janell Burley Hofmann did, but they will need to know the boundaries and the rules you will be setting.
Here are important things to discuss with your kids before letting them become mobile phone owners.
The cost. Are you getting them a prepaid or postpaid line? If it’s a postpaid line, talk about what is included in their plan and who will pay if their bill exceeds their monthly budget. If you are choosing prepaid, discuss the budget—will you be providing them with one P300 card or P500 worth of credits a month? If they run out, will they pay for the extra load using their allowance? Research on the different promos offered by the networks and use them to your advantage.
The model. What kind of phone should you get them? At 10 years old, do they really need an iPhone? Can they be happy with a more affordable unit? Can they settle for a basic mobile phone that can be used for texting and calling? If they already have an iPad and gaming consoles, do they really need to be able to play games on their phone?
The apps. If you decide to get them a smartphone that can be used to download apps, talk about the kind of apps they can download. And because not all apps are free, how much can they spend on apps each month?
The password. Some parents like knowing their children’s passwords, some don’t. You and your kids need to talk about what you are and are not comfortable with.
The curfew. Until what time can the kids use their phones? Should they be surrendered to you at night?
The boundaries. Are they allowed to bring them to school? If their phone is capable of accessing the Internet, are they allowed to use that feature on school days or on weekends only? Should they be switched off at the dinner table?
The rules. Remind them not to communicate with strangers. And not to broadcast their location. If the phone breaks and goes missing, what are the consequences?
Etiquette. Owning a gadget isn’t and will never be a license to be rude. Tell them what is and what isn’t okay. And please, teach your kids not to use their phones in the cinemas. Please.