Although on average a child is given their first mobile phone at the age of 11, a recent study in The Guardian suggests that nearly 1 in 10 schoolchildren get their hands on their first handset by the time they reach the age of five. Taking possession of a mobile phone for the first time is often part of the rite of passage of starting secondary school, but it would seem that many also find their way onto the primary school playground.
Once the sole territory of technology-savvy teenagers, it would seem today that staying connected is also of interest to infants. The original explanation for equipping a child with a mobile phone was that of emergency use and parental peace of mind. Keeping in contact with children may still be uppermost in parents’ minds when purchasing a phone, but so too might be combating the irritation of having their own phone commandeered by clamouring kids, claiming to be bored.
Due to increased competition, the costs of handsets and accompanying tariffs have fallen, making mobiles much more affordable for young people to manage out of their pocket money. Many pay as you go deals offer data downloads, calls and text messaging from as little as £10 per month. Ideal for daily use, bundles offer significant usage at reduced rates.
Children tend to exhibit greater ease and ability than their parents when using modern methods of communication and in order to fully participate in contemporary society, they should be comfortable with the ever-turning wheel of technology. Mobile phone use develops skills for the modern workplace, with its increasing requirement for technology-savvy recruits and flexible working practices.
One giant leap for independence
For many children, their first mobile phone is a step towards independence and a status symbol among peers. Using a mobile phone may encourage children to develop and maintain friendships, as well as helping them to benefit from social cohesion and acceptance at an age when a sense of inclusion is crucial. As many as 22% of parents purchase phones for their children, with the express intention of ensuring their child is not excluded by playground politics, according to recent research from The Daily Mail.
Of course, there are a number of concerns to consider prior to purchasing a mobile phone for your child. Of the countrywide mobile muggings, a study from The Guardian recently stated that 40% of thefts are from people under the age of 21. Children are undoubtedly targeted by phone thieves and if your child is permanently attached to their handset, walking and texting simultaneously or overtly conversing on an expensive piece of equipment, then they’re likely to put themselves at an increased level of risk. Educate your children to behave discreetly and selectively when using their phone in public.
Many parents also worry about potential involvement in inappropriate communication with other adolescents. From improper film clips to cyber bullying, children can be at the mercy of mobile abuse. Allowing your child to spend an inordinate amount of unsupervised time with their phone may incur unwanted consequences. Honest discussion about the responsibility of using their mobile may enhance their safety. Ensuring your teenagers are aware of the risks of sending explicit texts will encourage them to remain within the boundaries of acceptable usage.
Monitoring your child’s mobile usage will increase your trust in their ability to behave responsibly. Turning a blind eye to their telephone tendencies isn’t the ideal approach. From establishing rules for limiting usage to ensuring they adhere to school policies, your child’s craze for communication can be handled carefully.
If your children rack up extra costs or break boundaries, then it’s not unreasonable to confiscate their means of communication for a period of time sufficient to make your point but make sure your own behaviour matches your guidelines. According to research by Mobile by Sainsbury’s, 50% of mums check their phones in the morning before greeting their partners and the average amount of times a mum checks their phone each hour is a staggering seven times! Tackling these behaviours in yourself may make it easier to instil good manners in your kids.