Is my child ready to have their own smartphone?

We find many children in year 5 (aged 9 and 10) have a smartphone and are using apps like Instagram and Snapchat on these (see later). The reason often given by parents is that the child needs to be able to communicate with them at school or on the way to and from school. All schools have in place robust communication policies for parents and there should be no need for a child to have a phone simply to communicate with parents at school: in fact many primary schools insist that mobile phones are stored safely at school, for example in the school office, and other schools allow phones to be kept in bags but not to be used at school. In relation to getting to and from school, if children are going a relatively short distance then there is no need for a smartphone as the child might need to call or text but not access the internet. Once a child has a smartphone it is almost impossible to get a phone contract that does not include data i.e. internet access, which means the child will be able to access the internet outside of any controls you have in place at home. Also, even if they don’t have data included they will still be able to access the internet at friends’ houses or in shops/cafes and other buildings that have free WiFi. We have seen a massive increase in the amount of bullying and sharing of inappropriate content by phone in the last two years in younger children and regularly have to attend primary schools to deal with these incidents. Unless your child is travelling long distances to school, we would recommend that you consider very carefully before buying a primary age child a phone and that children should only be given smartphone once they are old enough to deal with the online safety issues around their own and other people’s behaviour. They need to be able to block and report another user and not to answer any messages or requests from people they don’t know.

In summary:

  • Does your child need to be able to contact you?
  • Does your child need access to the internet outside your home?
  • Can you child manage the risks from inappropriate content and conduct from others without your help?