Most—if not all of us—had mobile-phone free childhoods, so when it comes to giving our own kids’ first mobile phones, we have no personal experience to recall. Despite this, hardly anyone bats an eye at seeing a child happily tapping away at a mobile device anymore.
According to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 85% of kids aged 14-17, 69% of 11-14 year olds, and 31% of 8-10 year olds have mobile phones. Judging from how many kids we see on mobile devices today, it’s safe to say that these figures have probably gotten higher since then.
However, giving your child their first mobile phone isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Learn from these common mistakes that many parents make when giving their kids mobile phones.
1. Not waiting until they’re ready
There isn’t one special age that deems that your child is ready for his first phone. It’s up to you, his parents, to use your best judgement to see if he’s ready.
Is your child careful with his belongings? Does your child often leave things behind or misplace her belongings? Wait until they learn how to be more responsible before giving them a phone—otherwise, giving them a phone is pretty much like throwing money away.
What kind of phone you give your child is also something you need to consider. Younger children, for example, won’t need much more than a basic phone that simply lets you communicate with them, and vice versa. Tweens and teens, in the meantime, will probably want a phone with more features that will let them interact with their friends better.
2. Not teaching them about healthy online conduct
Don’t take for granted the things that seem like common sense to you. It’s important that we teach them about the effects of cyberbullying, what they shouldn’t post online, and what sites they shouldn’t visit. These internet safety guidelines need to be taught to children, who don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions, especially in online settings.
3. Not setting ground rules
One common (and valid) worry that parents have regarding kids and mobile phones is having a child who is perpetually glued to their device and, ironically, almost impossible to communicate with.
You can prevent this from happening by setting ground rules, like creating device-free period (after a certain hour, for example) or making a no-phones rule during mealtimes. Discuss these rules clearly with the entire family to see what works best for all of you.
4. Setting a bad example
When your child sees you on your device from morning till bedtime, or if you’re too busy checking your emails to listen to them talk about their day, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you see her doing exactly the same thing. We are our kids’ number one role models, which is why we should do our best to set a good example. Put your phone away and be present—your family will appreciate you for it.
5. Choosing the wrong plan
There are plenty of horror stories floating around the internet of parents having to pay a bucket-load for their kids’ online purchases and/or mobile internet usage. You can prevent all that by opting for a plan that places family-friendly limits on your child’s mobile habits.
(Update on 2020, this is unavailable)
Singtel’s My First Mobile Pack, for example, lets you manage how much time your child spends on the internet, blocks inappropriate content, and alerts you when they try to access restricted sites. The pack also features a mobile sharing plan, as well as games and shows on the Nickelodeon Play app.
Want to learn more about the My First Mobile Pack? Visit Singtel’s website for more details.