Q. What makes a good first mobile phone (and what rules should I set)? Caroline, West Sussex
Half of British children will get their first mobile phone by the age of 11, says a recent survey by Nationwide, with 55 per cent of parents citing a need to stay in touch, and more than a third concerned about safety. But what should you buy, and how should it be used?
Given that most children lose at least two phones in the senior school year, it doesn’t make much sense to spend more than £120, and there are plenty of pay-as-you-go handsets for less than that. The Nokia 1800 (about £40) has a good battery life but no camera, which will appeal to many parents An Alcatel POP 4 smartphone on the other hand, will keep a teen plugged into social media for about £100.
What are the rules?
Clear ground rules are essential. Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of parenting charity Family Lives, says: ‘Make rules for time spent talking on the phone so you won’t be surprised by an astronomical phone bill. And ban the phone in the bedroom, meal or prep times.’
He adds: ‘Before you buy the phone, establish a price and what you are willing to pay for credit each week or month. This allows you to manage their expectations and they won’t come pestering for more credit if they use it all up in a short space of time. Be clear with your child that if they lend their phone to a friend, give it away or swap it, you won’t replace it, so they understand the phone is their responsibility.’
If you opt for a contract, remember that unlimited texting may encourage overuse, and do consider how extra costs can be incurred through internet use.
And remember: you may feel a child is safe if they are only able to use wi-fi at home, but new ‘ad hoc’ wi-fi allows internet connection to be shared via a friend’s phone.