Are smartphones stealing childhoods? Exploring the right age to give your child their first mobile
on 05 Nov, 2018
At what age is it appropriate to let your child have their own mobile phone? It’s been a much-debated topic for a number of years now, and with recent calls from MP Matthew Hancock, to ban the devices in schools, it’s an issue that’s fast-gathering attention.
It prompted us to take a deeper look into the impact smartphones are having on our younger generation. We’ve been working with schools, charities, authorities and governing bodies to shine a light on areas like education, cyberbullying and online safety.
As part of our research we surveyed 1,000 parents in the UK on topics relating to children and mobile phones and found that the most popular age bracket for allowing a child their first mobile phone was 10-13 at 53.25%. 6.4% of parents even said they would let their child have their first mobile phone at age 6 or under.
Psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Greg, suggests that perhaps the question should be less about when you let a child have their first phone, and more about how you go about it. He believes the best approach is to “provide young people with skills, knowledge, and strategies to use mobile phones in a safe, smart and responsible way.”
Our survey revealed that almost 14.6% of parents do not monitor their child’s mobile phone use at all. It’s a tricky area to navigate with many teenagers particular protective of their privacy, however it’s a slightly concerning statistic when we consider that almost 10% of respondents claimed that while they were not aware their child had become a victim of cyberbullying, they had suspicions this might be the case.
It’s clear a balance needs to be sought between allowing young people their freedom, and protecting them online. In response to this, we’ve put together guides on topics like the best parental control apps and tips on how to spot the signs of cyberbullying.
Needless to say, prevention is always better than cure, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. Any parent can start off with the best intentions, taking steps to ensure their child is as safe as possible online, but it’s not fool-proof and sometimes issues will arise – whether it’s a petty argument between friends that’s turned nasty on social media, or something more sinister.
One area of disparity we found in our research, was between the availability and awareness of third parties when it comes to support for parents, children and even teachers. Our survey discovered that that 12.9% of parents would turn to the school first if their child was being cyberbullied, while 7.9% would contact a local authority, and only 2.7% would consider reaching out to a charity.
We spoke to Janet Bloomfield from Essex Police who explained that “cyberbullying doesn’t happen in school – it’s before and after or at the weekend.” This means that schools have no responsibility to report these incidents (although of course that’s not to say they won’t choose to get involved).
An impartial third party, such as a charity or organisation however, can be a great option to turn to. Speaking to someone who doesn’t know you, from a charity like Childnet or NSPCC can sometimes be easier and can offer a valuable perspective, while organisations like Get Safe Online have a wealth of helpful resources for staying safe online.
So whilst it’s important to consider the right age to let your child have a mobile phone, it’s even more crucial to think ahead and familiarise yourself with ways to keep them safe once they’ve got one, and where to look to for extra support should you need it. The good news is that there are plenty of places to turn to.
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