The day is finally here. After years of watching us parents glued to our phones, the kids have asked for their own. What the hell do we do? Won’t a phone just open up a universe of SnapChat paranoia, £7,000 red bills from Vodafone and the sound of Kiss FM played through tiny speakers at 6am?
Don’t panic. We’re gonna get you through this. Annoyingly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this one so have a go with the following choose your own adventure style quiz. A bit like Buzzfeed for kids’ phones. Maybe.
Are you cool with your kid having a phone?
(a) Yup, totally fine with it. They’re not making the same nuts decisions they did last year.
Move onto QUESTION 2!
(a) No, not really. Have you seen the History on my iPad??
Probably best you don’t get them one right now. See you in a few months – why not read this while you wait?
Right, so you don’t mind the idea of your kid having a phone. Let’s have a think about how old they are and what they’re going to be doing on it.
(a) My kid is only small. I just want to know where they are and to be in touch if I need them. I definitely don’t want them scrolling through endless Fortnite hack videos on YouTube when they should be writing a thank you letter to granny.
Ah, that’s not a phone you’re wanting. What you really need is one of the GPS tracker watches. These have a pre-installed SIM that allows for two-way phone calls between your kid and the phone numbers you’ve input (‘Granny? Mum said I had to rite a fank you card but I’m calling you from my arm!’). Real-time location tracking – updated automatically every minute – means parents can use a smartphone to locate errant children (a bit like Pokémon Go!) and manage the watch. Most have an SOS alert button on the watch to automatically call up emergency contacts when pressed.
(b) I don’t mind the idea of my kid having a phone, but I really don’t want to put the entire internet into their evil, super villain palms. Is there a middle ground?
Yes, happily there is. Word on the street (well, Facebook) is that lots of parents are going back to the old school Nokia 3310. It’s a classic looking Nokia that calls and texts, has limited online access and app capability and, well, that’s pretty much it apart from Snake so who could ask for more? Probably your kids tbh who’ll be wanting an iPhone X but you’re the one with the credit card.
(c) I’m a cool, modern parent and I’m fine with my kid having their own smartphone. No, really I am.
Hand-me-downs are the usual route for most parents these days. Got an ageing iPhone you’re not using? Then it’s easy to bung on a new number and basic pay-as-you-go or monthly deal. The benefits of a more elderly phone are that the storage is often a bit rubbish (which naturally limits the number of apps and photos they can store) and while your young trendsetter will be a bit narked at first if our experience is anything to go by, remind them you could just sell it. Tends to work that.
If you need to buy a smartphone, then parting with the best part of a £1,000 for a small child isn’t exactly on. You could do a lot worse than the EE Hawk. It’s a decent device for £149 sim-free or free on a £15 a month tariff, including a reasonable amount of data. And you won’t freak out *too* much when they lose it on the bus.
So, we’ve figured out if your kid should have a phone and what phone to get them. Are you going to give them 24/7 unfettered access to the internet and all the apps under the sun or are you going to be the Evil Phone Police who controls absolutely everything?
(a) Like I said, I’m cool with them using a smartphone. Whatevs.
Good for you – you have an annoyingly trusting relationship with your child that we’re envious of! However, make sure you’ve read our guides to parental settings and tweens and social media before you set them off on their merry journey across the world wide web.
(b) A phone is okay but as for them actually using it… TELL ME WHAT TO DO!
We understand. First off, how old are they? Loads of parents wait until their kids are off to secondary school to get a phone, at which point there are obvious breakpoints in the day when they’ll be using their phones: before breakfast, during breakfast, after breakfast, on the way to school etc.
There’s an increasing amount of peer pressure going on at primary school as well though (‘Everyone else at school has a phone but me!’) and with that comes far less ability to self-regulate. Suffice to say, it’s worth putting stricter limits on phone use and screen time where you can eg Think two hours a day, no phones at meals, all phones off at 7pm etc or whatever suits your family.
On usage after school, there’s plenty of evidence out there around how blue lit screens affect sleep and we’ll be damned if we’re going back to the broken nights now that the possibility of a lie-in is within our grasp. Whatever you do, do NOT cave in and let them take their handset to bed with them. We’ve heard of parents getting up for a wee in the night only to discover their sprogs still awake and playing Minecraft at 4am. It’s hard enough for us to put down our phones at night, so we can’t exactly expect them to do it themselves, can we?
Other than that? The reality is it’s 2018 and our kids have been born into a tech world where the cotton wool is now firmly off and we’re going to actually have to trust them – well, at least to some extent. The best thing any parent can do is to help them navigate it as best they can. Keep talking (or texting) and it should all be okay. Besides, it’s actually quite handy to be able to ask them to buy milk on their way back from school. Just make sure you don’t turn into Emoji Mum…