Does your child own their own smartphone? The age at which we introduce our kids to this particular gadget is, of course, a personal decision, but there’s no denying that smartphones are one of the most coveted possessions amongst older children and teenagers. From a parent’s perspective, a smartphone for kids offers the reassurance of being able to get in touch with your child when you’re not with them, and as such can help support them as their independence grows. But with such a huge variety of handsets and tariffs available, choosing the most appropriate – and safest – option can feel rather daunting.
If you’re looking to buy a smartphone for your child, check out these tips on what to consider before making your choice.
Consider the purpose
It may sound obvious, but given just how many functions a smartphone provides, it’s worth identifying exactly what you expect your child to use a phone for. There’s no point spending lots of money on a fully-loaded handset if you really just want your child to be able to call people and send messages, but an older teen might need more internet capabilities and storage. Have a think about your child’s hobbies and interests when you’re comparing options too. For example, my eldest spends lots of time outdoors and uses his phone to take loads of pictures, so we need his handset to be pretty rugged and durable, with a decent camera and enough memory to store his snaps.
Contract or Pay-As-You-Go
Because Pay-as-you-go relies on pre-payment, it’s a good option for a smartphone for kids, as you won’t ever be at risk of an unexpectedly large bill. A monthly contract tends to offer lower call and data charges, but your child can exceed the contract’s allowances and you are tied in for 12 or 24 months. If you’re considering this option it’s well worth having a conversation about the additional cost of going over the monthly limits, so that your child understands the implications. The final option would be to opt for a 30 day rolling SIM only plan that’s capped, iD, Plusnet, Tesco and Three mobile all offer shockproof or capped bills which prevent your child ever going over their allowance. There are hundreds of deals to choose from which can be daunting, but fortunately this site has some useful sim only comparison filters to only show 30 day rolling (1 month) deals from certain UK network operators.
The ability to control what online content your child can access via their smartphone is bound to be high on your list of priorities. Check that the network you’re considering offers filters to prevent inappropriate content being viewed, and also whether the handset has parental control settings that can be adjusted to suit your child’s age. Remember though, once the phone is connected to Wi-Fi those filters will be bypassed – so before you hand over that shiny new smartphone, double-check your home broadband settings. It’s also a good idea to talk to your child about always using family-friendly Wi-Fi in public places.
Let’s face it, expensive gadgets and kids don’t always go well together! The chances of your child losing or accidentally damaging their smartphone are reasonably high, so it makes sense to consider insuring their handset. Check your home contents policy first though, as you may already be covered.
Discuss the rules
If you’re looking to buy your child a smartphone, you’ve obviously decided that they are ready for the responsibility that goes with owning one, but it’s worth a specific conversation with them about this very fact. Explain what you expect from them in terms of usage and safekeeping, and also discuss the possible issues they may encounter such as unexpected online content, peer pressure to access inappropriate apps, bullying etc. The aim here is to outline the rules, but also to reassure your child that you are there to support them should they get into difficulty. And make sure as parents you stick to some smartphone rules; it’s up to you to set an example and encourage a healthy attitude to usage, so you need to ditch the screens during family time too!
What are your tips when buying a smartphone for kids?
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