Wednesday 27 February 2019

When is the right time for your child's first mobile phone? #AD

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Carphone Warehouse and Nokia. All opinions are my own.

When is the best time for a child's first smartphone - Tween boy in hat

Choosing the right mobile phone is a big decision for anyone, this is a device that you will most likely use every day and you may be reliant on it for communication, for accessing news and for keeping up to date with your diary and activities, you may even pay for your shopping using it, or take advantage of electronic transport passes on your commute. Choosing the first mobile phone for your child is an even bigger commitment. When you hand your child a smartphone, you are providing them with the possibility of unlimited access to the Internet, and while this can be a great educational tool, it's also giving them a responsibility much beyond their years. You are trusting them to be sensible and set their own limits, yet how do you know if they are ready for such power?

When is the right age to have a first mobile phone?

Before you even start to consider which handset or tariff to opt for, you need to decide when the right age is for your child to have their first mobile phone. This is a question that doesn't have a 'one size fits all' answer. It will be different for every child and will depend on their own maturity level and circumstances. Can they exercise restraint? Can they be trusted not to use the phone during class or when they should be in bed? Do they have enough judgement to know what photographs are appropriate to post online? Do they 'need' a way to get in touch with you for emergencies?

We made the decision that our son would be given his first mobile phone for his eleventh birthday. This tied in well with him starting secondary school a week later as he would getting public transport independently for the first time and he would be able to utilise a smartphone to access apps and educational websites to help with his homework.

Tween boy looking at screen of Nokia 3.1 plus Andriod one smartphone

What should you consider when buying your child's first mobile phone?

One of the first things that I considered when we were browsing for Ben's first mobile phone was cost. I wanted to find a balance between a phone that had enough 'street-cred' to be 'acceptable' to a pre-teen and his friends, but also wasn't too high value and wouldn't, therefore, make him a target for theft. It also had to look good as my son can be rather fussy about what he wears and what he carries around with him would be no exception. Sturdiness was another huge factor, I have to admit that Ben takes after my side of the family when it comes to clumsiness and 'butterfingers' is a pretty apt nickname for us both! We certainly didn't want him to end up with a cracked screen after just a few days so we were in the market for a phone that would be fairly robust.

When it comes to the capabilities of the phone itself we were looking for an operating system that would last the test of time and features that would grow with Ben, we also wanted him to have a camera that he could have some fun with on our travels, taking pictures and videos to capture memories of all our family adventures.

Once we knew what we were looking for and had agreed on a budget, we took Ben to our local Carphone Warehouse to have a look at what they had on offer, Ben was immediately drawn to the Android One  range from Nokia and they really did seem like the perfect phone, a no-nonsense version of Android that has all the essentials in a sleek, easy to use handset a million miles away from the Nokia 8210 I had as a teen (Although I did love the polyphonic ringtones!)

How do you protect your child when they have their first mobile phone?

Just like any parents, once we had made the decision to purchase our child's first mobile phone, we wanted reassurance that he would be safe online and that we can keep in touch at any time.  We wanted to give our 11-year-old freedom and independence but equally be able to protect him from inappropriate content.

Thanks to Carphone Warehouse and Nokia, I was introduced to the Family Link app from Google. An app that offers that much needed reassurance to parents but also allows children to have the freedom to explore the capabilities of their technology within protected boundaries.

App Authorisation

For children who are excited about having the independence of their first smartphone, the first thing they want to do is download ALL of the apps they've ever heard their friends mention or seen advertised on TV or even the bus stop! Once we had the Family Link app set up, Ben was free to access Google Play Store and select apps to download, but each time he chose an app he had to request permission from me to continue, he could do this by either sending the request through to the parental app on my phone where I could either approve or decline or if I was in the room with him, he could hand me his phone to log in with my credentials and approve it instantly. There is the facility to vary the amount of control, so if I wanted I could change it so that he only needed my permission for paid apps or those with in-app purchases.

Using Family Link app from google to restrict screen time

Screen Time Limits

One of my big worries was the amount of screen time Ben would have when he had his own device, he had always wanted five more minutes on the PlayStation or one more episode of whatever he was watching on TV and I was concerned about how we would be able to limit this with his phone. Family Link accounts for this and allows you to set up daily limits for screen time as well as set a bedtime period between which times the phone cannot be accessed. It also has a parental override so even if daily limits haven't been reached but you know that history homework is still sat on the desk waiting to be done, you can manually lock the phone so that your child is unable to unlock or use the phone, other than to make preset 'emergency' phone calls.

As well as limits, the app allows you to view reports of your child's activity on the device with a breakdown of the apps he has been using so you know if he really was researching for his science homework or just chatting to his friends online.

Location Monitoring

Another useful feature of the app is the ability to see where your child is located. When this feature is enabled, you can check at a glance if he is at that friend's house or almost home from school. It's also handy if the phone is left somewhere or even lost in the house.

Tween boy with Nokia 3.1 plus Andriod one smartphone - blue

Can you allow your child independence on the Internet?

The Family Link app took around 15 minutes to fully set up on my phone using my existing Google Account, including setting up a Google Account for Ben. 

For me, this app lets me set digital ground rules and gives me peace of mind that I can allow my pre-teen more independence to explore the online world without worrying that he is going to put himself at risk, run up credit card bills or even sit up all night watching Rollercoaster POV videos. He knows that he has a set time limit for screen time and he has to take responsibility for how he uses it.

Right now I still feel that he is too young for social media accounts, but many of his friends already have them, so if we do decide to relax this in the future I know that the Family Link app will allow me the confidence that I will be able to monitor his screen time.

With the help of the Family Link app I feel reassured that we made the right choice in the timing of our son's first mobile phone. He has the security of a way of contacting us if needed, the independence to explore and learn using technology and the approval of his peers and at the same time, I have the peace of mind that he is using technology in a responsible way.

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