Mobile Phones for Children
Despite the fact that buying a mobile phone for round-the-clock contact with your child sounds good on paper, it is a lot more complicated in practice. This is especially true when you want to protect them from potential dangers online.
After all, 79 per cent of 13-16 year olds have deleted the record of which sites they've visited. While a further 47 per cent of 9-12 year old smartphone users know how to change privacy settings on a social networking profile.
Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to keep your child safe while still providing them with an indispensable point of contact. What's more, the various contracts and controls on offer mean it won't cost a fortune either.
Choosing a handset
Even if your kid is desperate for the latest iPhone, this might not be a good idea. Research has found that of the 10,000 phones stolen in London every month, as many as two-thirds are taken from children aged 13-16. In fact, people aged 21 and younger account for 40 per cent of theft victims across the country.
For this reason, your best bet for pre-teens is a basic handset featuring essential phone functionality and youth-orientated extras like an FM radio and colour screen. It might not be the talk of the playground, but at least it can be replaced if lost, broken, or stolen. This saves any browsing for WiFi-only devices in the home, which you can more closely monitor.
For teenagers or young adults who can't be seen without some sort of smartphone, consider an Android handset from one of the lesser-known manufacturers. Although a bit more expensive, they will likely be much cheaper than popular flagship models. Most will feature security features where you can track and lock the phone if it's in someone else's hands. Keep your eye out for deals on these kinds of mid-range handsets.
Picking a contract
In all likelihood, you will be the bill payer for your child's mobile phone. Therefore, you will want to keep their usage in check but always ensure they can call home or send a text.
Most parents will pick a PAYG (Pay-As-You-Go) deal, as this allows you to buy credit in advance and manage your spending more effectively. However, if your child is constantly contacting their friends, the cost of calls and texts can soon add up. So, several parents go for PAYG bundles instead, which will give your child a monthly allowance without any commitment or liability.
Having said that, PAYG bundles need to be topped up every 30 days otherwise they run out. Your other option is signing up to a contract, which requires a close eye on usage but will often come with a free handset. Again, seek out special offers online and shop around for the best deal.
Managing their usage
This is a big concern for several parents and with good reason. Along with indecent online content that can be accessed in just a few seconds, children may also be more openly exposed to bullies as well. In 2014, EU Kids Online found that 20 per cent of 11-16 year olds have seen hate messages on a mobile phone.
To safeguard your child, consider downloading a parental control app for their device. For smartphones running Android, there are numerous apps that will only show approved apps, prevent the download of certain content, block incoming calls, and disable wireless signals.
You can also contact your network provider to see whether they offer filters to prevent children seeing adult content. Unfortunately, these filters can be bypassed when connected to a public WiFi network. So, the best course of action is to educate your child about the internet and what they should or shouldn't be looking at.
When you receive the phone, keep a record of its internal serial number, otherwise known as IMEI. This can be found by typing *#06# into the keypad, which will then display the 15-digit number on the screen. You can sign the phone up at Immobilise.com too, a UK national property register.
Remember to report a lost or stolen phone immediately. If the device features remote location-tracking software and it can't be found, select lost mode or erase the content and settings completely.
You might want to think twice about taking out mobile phone insurance too. In the small print of many policies you will find that insurance firms won't pay out if a mobile phone is stolen at school or college. However, it might be covered under your home's content insurance, so get in touch with your provider.
Mobile phones for children
Having the ability to contact your children whenever you want and vice-versa is something several parents could not live without. As with anything there are risks to giving your child a phone, but if you follow the aforementioned advice, you should be able to rest easy.
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