By Bessie Hassan
Kids with smartphones is becoming a reality. According to finder.com.au research, almost one in four (22%) Aussie children under 12 years old already have their own smartphone. But for those who haven’t already given their child a mobile phone, the idea of doing so can seem fairly unnerving.
Introducing your kids to their first smartphone is daunting for any parent, and there are clear pros and cons. A phone provides a convenient way for you to keep in touch with your child, especially if they have to travel long distances for school. But with the good comes the bad. Phones can open your child up to problems such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content, and it also increases their screen time.
That said, there’s no better time to take the phone plunge than the beginning of a new school year, especially if you’re sending your kids off to high school. And if you are considering getting your child a phone this year, there are a number of things you should keep in mind to help you make the right choice for both you and your child.
The finder.com.au survey found that one of the key reasons that parents give their kids a smartphone is so that they can contact them whenever they need to. If the only reason you want your child to have a smartphone is so that they are easily contactable on their way to school or during after-school activities, it’s best to get them a plan that doesn’t include data, or better yet, opt for a basic "feature phone" rather than a smartphone. That way your kids can’t access apps and games, which make it easier for them to rack up a big mobile bill and waste time.
For most parents this will be an easy choice. If you choose to go with a postpaid plan, especially one that includes data, your kids could rack up an enormous phone bill. If you want to avoid this excess spend it’s best to go for a prepaid option. That way you can control how much your kids are spending on calls, texts and data, and you can avoid unnecessary bill shock.
While many would think that the main reason that more children have a smartphone is pressure from the kids themselves, finder.com.au research shows that the key reason children are getting mobile phones is actually because a lot of parents just have a spare lying around. We all know how rough kids can get, so before you invest in a phone that might end up with a smashed screen or lost under the back seat of the school bus, consider whether it’s worth it. If you do have a spare phone lying around, why not give it to your child? Not only will you save a bit of money, but you won’t be too fussed if it gets broken either.
These days, most smartphones offer location tracking services. They’re traditionally used to locate your lost smartphone but they can also be used to track the phone owner. There are even apps that allow you to track multiple family members on a map. Most of the time you’ll need a data connection to use these services though, so if you do plan on tracking your kid’s location, you might need to opt for a plan with a data allowance.
Buying your child a mobile phone is always a big step for any parent. But if you make sure to weigh up the pros and cons and consider why your child needs a phone and what exactly they need it for, the process will be much easier.
Bessie Hassan is the Money Expert at finder.com.au, the site that compares virtually everything.