Mobile phones are everywhere these days. When we were small, they were far less commonplace, and for some of us, they didn’t exist at all. Yet for children today, they are becoming a must-have item. If your child hasn’t asked for one yet, it’s probably only a matter of time before they do. Giving a child a mobile phone can be a difficult decision, as while they can be very useful, they also have their own dangers. As a parent you will make the final decision, but before you do, you need to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons to consider.
A major benefit of getting a mobile phone for your child is that you can stay in touch at any time of day wherever they are. Pay phones, once a feature of every street corner, are rare as hen’s teeth today, and the ones that are still around can often be fairly grim places, prone to being vandalised. Smartphones come equipped with GPS and there are many apps which allow you to track your child’s movements to help keep them safe.
Mobile phones allow your child to keep in contact with their friends easily and conveniently, especially useful when they’re not in school. In the pre-mobile era, many children ran up huge landline telephone bills talking to friends while others just lost touch. Mobile phones can allow children to build stronger relationships. Although it might sound negative, many children already have these devices, those that don’t may feel left out.
When you register a mobile phone for a child it should be in your name, giving you full and ultimate control over the device. If you have concerns over misuse, excessive screen time or cyberbullying, then there are many apps you can download that you can use to monitor phone activity and set limits. All children are different, but there is an app to cover every need, and you can also customise settings to fit your child’s needs. You can also control the costs by using a comparison website and selecting one of the many brilliant deals on offer to suit your requirements.
Giving a child a mobile phone is a great way to give children a sense of responsibility, as they need to look after a valuable piece of equipment. They also will learn about the importance of managing costs and you can talk to your child to explain how they must use the phone within the limits you have set.
There are hundreds of educational apps available to download on smartphones, and many of them are free. These can help with learning maths, literacy, vocabulary and much more. There are some fantastic games and engaging activities where children can have fun while they learn, and there are apps for all ages and abilities.
Smartphones allow children to access the internet, and unfortunately this does give rise to some dangers. The web can be a toxic place, and it has become an outlet for extreme violence, pornography and racial and religious hatred. Social media has allowed bullies to victimise other children and spread malicious rumours, while there have been cases where sexual predators have attempted to groom children. While there are apps that allow parents to monitor the internet and set limits, to entirely restrict access to unsavoury material is not possible.
Unfortunately, children often use their phones to send messages, play games and generally muck about while they should be studying in class. There have been instances where phones have been used to cheat in tests and exams, while they have also been a vehicle to allow bullying to take place.
If children don’t stick to your rules about usage then you can get some shocking news when the bill arrives. Apps can be easily downloaded that require purchases to be made, calls can be made outside your agreed plan and the internet can be accessed without WiFi connection which means your data allowance may be exceeded. Phones can be also easily lost or stolen. It’s wise to give your child an old handset you no longer use then all you have to do is go online and get a cheap sim only deal.
Social Isolation & Obesity
Like adults, children can easily become addicted to smartphones. Surfing the internet, playing games and looking at social media can become an obsession. Children can become withdrawn and stop interacting properly with family and friends. School work can suffer as children lose focus and spend less real time with their classmates. Sitting around on smartphones all day also damages children’s physical health and can lead to childhood obesity.
Whether we like it or not, smartphones are here to stay and children want to have them. It is your decision when they get them; but your responsibility doesn’t end there. You need to continually educate your children on the dangers that are present, set firm rules (with firm consequences when broken) and keep monitoring activity. And don’t forget to keep costs under control by heading online to get a great mobile deal from the outset.