Buying a Smart Phone for Your Child: What to Watch Out For
Let’s be honest: buying a smart phone for your child is a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, having the ability to stay in constant touch with your kid is a huge advantage. On the other hand, the dangers that kids can be exposed to on mobile internet and through social networking apps can be pretty scary. We’re taking a look at what you need to know about buying a phone for your child as well as giving you some recommendations for hand sets. Before you give in to the demand for a mobile, read on!
Money, Money, Money
Let’s start with cost, since that’s going to be a big factor for most people. Under 21s make up over 40% of stolen mobile phones in the UK. That’s obviously a big number, and the chances are that your kid’s phone is going to get nicked at some point. Not only that, but there’s a fair chance that it’ll get lost or stolen as well. With so many great budget hand sets around, there’s no reason why you should need to spend more than £100 or so on a decent smart phone, probably even less.
If you are opting to spend a little more, then at the very least consider getting mobile phone insurance. Insurance can cost as little as a few pounds a month, and in the event of an accident or theft then you’ll be able to replace the hand set. Do check the policy carefully though, as many insurers don’t cover theft in schools, which would make the policy a waste of money for most kid’s phones.
Something that not many parents are aware of is that you have the right to demand that your child’s mobile operator blocks all inappropriate web content from the phone. This is the law, and you can do this through any UK mobile operator. It’s well worth taking a few minutes to call customer service and get this done, since it will give you some peace of mind.
However, the dangers of mobile internet use aren’t just down to porn and inappropriate material. Social networking sites, contact with strangers, even Bluetooth with its ability to send messages can pose problems. It’s up to you to talk to your child about the responsibilities of having a phone and using it properly. There are a couple of things that you can do to monitor the situation though…
You’ve got two options when it comes to controlling your child’s phone. The first is to look on the phone itself. iPhones, for example, have excellent settings menus that allow you to block all kinds of functions and then set a password on them. Some Androids also have this ability, but you’ll need to look at the phone you decide on and check this out.
Your other alternative is to look for parental control apps that allow you to monitor your child’s phone use and block apps and functions. There are plenty of these around, with some of the best being Net Nanny, My Mobile Watchdog, and Screen Time Parental Control. The last two apps on this list also let you block out times (such as school time) when the phone can’t be used at all, which might come in handy.
Contract or PAYG?
Another tough choice that you’ll need to make is whether to go contract or PAYG. Both options have pros and cons. With a contract your child will always be able to get in touch, no matter what, but may also run up huge bills. With PAYG there’s no chance of a big bill, but should your child run out of credit he or she won’t be able to call or message you.
Which you choose is up to you, but be aware of the fact that there are only two UK operators that will allow you to cap your child’s contract to avoid big bills: Tesco Mobile and Three.
There are quite a few models out there that are suitable for kids, depending on how old your child is. The youngest users will probably be happy with the basic Nokia 100, which is cheap, robust and easy to use. If you need a little more than that, then the Nokia Asha 201 with its full QWERTY keyboard might be a good choice. Both these models come in attractive, bright colours too.
Older kids are going to want a touch screen phone, and in this case there are a couple of good options. The first is the iPhone 4S, cheaper than the top end iPhones, the 4S does have those awesome settings that let you shut functions of the phone down. Another choice is the Motorola Defy which is an incredibly solid phone- meaning it’s going to be tough to break. The Motrola G also deserves an honourable mention here too and it can be picked up for about £100 PAYG.
There are phones that are specifically designed for kids, though the vast majority of these are for very young children. These models tend to feature two to four buttons that can be programmed to certain numbers, such as your mobile, and really are only suitable for the youngest primary school kids.
Should You Worry?
A phone is a big responsibility for a child. Not only do you need to think about cost but also about safety. However, for many parents the benefits far outweigh the negatives. It’s smart to talk to your child first and make him or her aware of the dangers. However, changing the settings on a phone to prevent certain kinds of use and downloading parental control apps is even smarter.
On the bright side, you’ll be able to get in touch with your kid whenever, wherever, and having a mobile phone can be an excellent way to teach pre teens and young teens about financial responsibility and budgeting. A smart phone doesn’t have to be a danger, as long as it’s used properly and monitored properly.