Mobile phones used to be only for young professionals. Gradually every adult acquired the habit and the user base is now expanding down the age range. Almost every child of ten now has a phone. How old is too young for a child to have his or her own phone?
As adults we theoretically know the difference between needing and wanting. Children have no understanding whatsoever of this concept. If they want something, they ‘need’ it.
There are several factors to consider in your decision of when to buy a first phone for your offspring; responsibility, financial understanding and need.
Children mature at different rates and some children of eight years old are further along the cognitive development path than some eleven year olds. You will know when your child is responsible enough to handle a phone.
It is not always appropriate to use a phone in public; there are some times when we need to give our full attention to what we are doing. As adults many people still talk and text when they are driving. You can use this as an illustration to explain the concept of appropriate phone use.
Children do not drive but when they are crossing a road they need all their wits about them and should never be texting or talking when they should be watching traffic.
Children need to understand the concept of money and that its supply is limited before they are given the responsibility of a phone. After all they could break your bank account if you gave them a contract phone and they were talking on it for eight hours a day.
You can teach your child this concept by giving her a weekly allowance and always expecting any spending to stay within this allowance. You should never give an advance of next week’s allowance because you are trying to teach the benefits of saving. If you ever give in to the pleas for an advance your child’s future demands will be endless.
There is also the concept that talking costs money to teach your child. She will only learn this through experience, though. If you give her a Pre-Pay phone with £5 call credit on it for a week you can guarantee that it will all be used up within a day. Harden your heart against her requests and demands for more credit.
Even if you intend to give her a contract phone eventually, running out of credit on a Pre-Pay one is the only way to teach your daughter that talking costs money. In her second week of using the phone the £5 might last two days, and eventually it will last the week, but it will take six months before she makes it last the full seven days.
Sometimes family circumstances will dictate that a child needs a phone to ring you for a lift home or in a crisis. After a divorce children may need a private method to talk to their absent parent and a mobile phone can provide this method.
There is always the enormous effect of peer pressure, something that is very important to children and teenagers.
No matter how independent your daughter is, she will still ‘need’ a phone when most of her friends have one. This is why you need to teach her about money at an early age; it is too late to start to do so only when you give her the phone. She needs to understand at least the concept that money is limited before that happens.
Even if you can easily afford to give your daughter the latest iPhone on an unlimited contract you should still get her a Pre-Pay phone in the first instance. This is the only way she will learn that using her mobile phone is going to cost her money. Your daughter is going to have to support her own phone habits when she is older, so teach her responsible phone use while she is a child.