“But everyone in my school has one!”
Do you give in to pester power or hold out until they are older? In these times of mobile phone addiction, cyber-bullying and sexting, would you rather not give them a phone at all?
On the flip side for you as a parent, having a phone means peace of mind when they are out and about, while helping them form stronger social networks and be included at school.
So, what is the right age for a child to have their own phone?
Kids of different ages use phones differently. Younger kids, between 5 and 10, are more likely watch YouTube videos and play games on the phone. Your phone or a shared tablet should be good enough at this age. However 31% of Australian kids already own a phone by the time they are 10.
As they get to 12-13 the mobile starts becoming more of a communication tool with texts being the form of conversation. This is also when they start becoming more independent and the phone is useful for organizing the inevitable pick ups and drop offs. You could get them one, but the level of flexibility would have to depend on the emotional maturity of your child. Consider a prepaid cheapie with restricted credit instead of a full blown smartphone. Research shows 80% of kids in this age group own a phone.
The phone becomes a perceived necessity in teenage years when the online world becomes as, if not more, important as the real world. Kids have access to a lot when they are on the computer anyway, so mobile phone or not depends entirely on your relationship with your child. This Mum gave her 13 year old an iPhone for Christmas along with an 18 point contract that included terms like restricted hours, no porn, responsible use and no phone to school. Not many parents can enforce such rules but it is a good idea to discuss responsible use sooner rather than later. Perhaps make them earn the phone by saving their own money.
So should your 13 year get her own phone? The answer as we see it, is a qualified yes.