When Should Your Child Get a Smartphone

At What Age to give away a Smartphone and recommended Models

Child with giftsChristmas, Easter, Birthday … all of them are propitious times for parents to either give their children a first mobile phone, or for them to ask for one. The most common questions will then arise in these cases: What is the recommended age for giving a first mobile to a child? How should I manage its use? What mobile do I buy for a child? We have spoken with experts to find out different points of view when facing this moment that sooner or later arrives.

What is the best Age for a Child’s first Mobile Phone?

The number of children who have their first mobile phone at an early age is continuously growing.

In 2016, one in four 10-year-olds had a mobile phone. The difference with respect to the previous year is barely 1 point, more or less the average growth of this figure since 2011. When they turn 11, the percentage rises by almost half, but it is from the age of 12 that three out of four children have a mobile phone.

From the age of 12, the percentage of children with a mobile phone in Spain is 75%.

That age coincides with the transition from school to high school. That’s what the numbers say and what’s usual, but neither statistics nor social pressure should decide for parents when it’s the best time for a child to have access to a mobile phone of their own.

Most parents we’ve asked agree: whether a child has a mobile phone at 9 or 13 does not depend so much on age as on their needs and, of course, circumstances. And those who know it best are the parents.

“The first child is not the same as the third and an introverted child with few friends is not the same as a child with many friends or a lot of curiosity or a child with many non-technological hobbies as a child whose only hobby is to consume videos.

Let neither the child nor social pressure decide when the mobile phone arrives. Are you ready? That’s the question that needs to be answered.

Is it better at 9 or 13? If a child has clear how to behave, healthy habits, relates to normal ….. Why set a specific age to have a mobile phone?

“What’s more, the issue is not the device but what is done with it. A smartphone with data that can connect to the Internet anywhere, or a smartphone where the child’s user profile allows you to download anything, you should wait until the child in question is ready to use it after using other devices. However, a mobile phone that only connects to the Internet via wi-fi or that cannot download without the authorization of adults can result in a positive progressive digital autonomy”.

Fight against the “All my Friends already have a Phone”

If not at age 9-10, it is quite likely that with the passage to secondary education, entry into adolescence and a more intense and independent social life, children will argue that all their classmates or friends already have their mobile phone. First of all, keep calm and check it out.

“When our son begins to remind us that he is ‘the only one who has no mobile’ in his class, the first thing we can do is contrast him with some other parent. Secondly, just as we do with other things (when we let them go alone to buy bread or go on a group trip but without you or send them to a camp…), it is important not to get carried away by prejudices or pressures and do what one considers: wait or allow”.

There are communication scientists from Universities who agree that for children to start using the telephone as soon as possible is positive if the reason is to be a technological tool, but they stress that “the age will depend on the family and the decision of the parents”, not on the children.

“The age at which children have a mobile phone, which is usually between 11 and 13 years old, has been brought forward. Is that correct? If the mobile is used to be in contact with their group of friends and to be reachable, as long as the parents consider it so, it is a good age”.

Another complex situation to deal with is when parents are divorced or do not reach a common agreement on whether or not to give a telephone to their child. Or both at the same time. With the clear nuances that each family is a different world and each child, what prevails is the conversation in search of an agreement that must be accepted by the child.

“If the parents do not agree and the same happens in other areas, it will be necessary to seek consensus. And if the parents are divorced, if that means that there can be no agreement that one gives mobile and the other does not approve, I usually recommend that the parents agree with the child a kind of ‘contract of use’ that clarifies how the device will be used. It should be possible to talk about the subject, thinking about the child, but as life is as it is, let it be clear what are the rules of each parent”.

What does a Child need a Mobile Phone for?

If we continue analysing INE data in Spain, although there is not a high percentage of children with a mobile phone until the age of 11-12, the same does not happen with access to a PC (88% use it from the age of 10) or to the Internet (91% from the age of 11).

In many cases, more than 50%, a child’s first mobile phone comes from a gift, almost always on the side of parents who feel that with the mobile phone in their children’s hands, they gain in security and control over them, knowing at all times where they are and what they are doing.

Usually, the advantages associated with a child having a mobile phone remain on the side of having it located, being able to call their parents and being “socialized” with their friends. But it’s not the only thing and it’s not the most important thing.

If a child’s first smartphone arrives without a birthday, reward for good grades or similar, we are already taking a first step to make proper use of it.

However, a mobile phone today has almost the least of its communication capabilities. Internet connectivity is necessary and very useful for many facets of your life, and parents and adults should not leave them out of a false desire for protection. As in other facets of life, what belongs to parents is an educational task in this digital world.

And that parental work does not start with the acceptance of the delivery of a first smartphone. It goes back a long way.

If we look at the experts consulted, the decision on whether or not to give a mobile phone to a child (and the type of phone) is going to depend more on the use that is going to be made of it than on age.

“Children don’t ask for a mobile because they ‘need’ it to be happy or feel integrated into their group. They may think so, but a child with a lot of friends or a very popular child won’t need to have a mobile phone to be invited to plans. Children ask for a smartphone to carry the world in their pocket and have freedom, but almost everything they do with that mobile could also be done with a Tablet (except to take it out of the house with equal comfort). Of course, a 9-year-old child with a smartphone and mobile data is a child with too much autonomy.

Although it will depend on each family, sharing a parent’s phone is often a first step in empowering children with that device. With this equipment, which can include a specific profile for children (without the possibility of downloading applications, for example), minors can create Instagram profiles that they will manage from that phone or Whastapp groups among friends who use that parents’ phone.

“What’s certainly a good idea is to talk to kids about what they want a social profile or app for, what they expect to get out of that use…”

In that previous conversation with the children, even before having their own device, we will be able to lay the foundations of their behavior with the mobile phone, know their needs (which in many cases can be satisfied with a tablet or a computer, to watch videos, listen to music or even participate in social networks) and educate them in a responsible and positive use of technology.

How to manage the Use of a Child’s first Mobile Phone

Although when it comes to the right moment for a child to have the first mobile phone, each parent must have the last word and there are no magic tricks to know it, experts agree on one maxim: set rules of use and make it clear that the phone is not theirs. Even if it had arrived as a gift, much of the use they will make of it will require the Internet. “And the Internet costs money that parents pay. So, somehow, their mobile and their Internet belong to their parents”.

In addition to rules and contracts, in the first steps of a child with a mobile phone or technology in general, you have to talk and listen a lot. Putting ourselves in your place

The first thing to do is to agree with the children some conditions of use that may include times of disconnection, places where the mobile phone may or may not be used, as well as reasons why adults may or may not check the device. These rules and regulations can be established in written or spoken form, but in our opinion, there are two maxims that both parents and children should know.

“Everyone must assume that, in the event of misuse, two things happen: The child is learning and must be wrong to do so; and the consequences warned must be respected and not overlooked.

Online there are numerous types of contracts, many of them based on Janell Burley Hofmann’s famous deal with his 12-year-old daughter when she gave him her first mobile phone. It contains rules of use, schedules, times and rules of communication, which, as Rebeca and Marga tell me, are “the same as those we establish about education and knowing how to be in class, in the family or before unknown people; the network is the real world extrapolated to thousands of people. If children are clear about these rules, they should follow them in their online world.

The type, amount, and manner of meeting those usage standards are on the side of each family. It is not the same one in which an accompaniment has been made since the age of 6 in the positive use of technology as in another where the delivery of the first telephone is the first contact of the minor with the Internet, for example. From that age onwards, this task will be more difficult, basically because the child is totally autonomous, even with more knowledge than the parents themselves.

Everyone has his or her own adaptation of the contract for iKids, as we call them. In it we can find the fundamental aspects that we want not so much in the use of the device as in the learning that we want children to have with the mobile phone. Generally speaking, they could be:

  • Limits and rules on screen time and disconnection.
  • Dangers of relating online with strangers.
  • Need to think twice before sharing messages or photos or videos.
  • Importance of being guided to learn.
  • Protagonism of your individuality, your offline life and your hobbies.

It makes sense to look at the negative aspects we want to avoid when establishing rules for smartphone use.

“There are negative aspects to be taken into account and they are rules that are established day by day at home, such as not using the mobile phone when you are with your family, for example, during lunch, not leaving the mobile phone during study hours or charging it in the child’s bedroom during the night.

Just as we sit down with our children to watch TV from an early age, we must see what they say, to whom, how, what profile picture they have decided to put and warn them not to talk about their private life or indicate where they live or what school they go to; these are data that are not really of interest to anyone and that can generate problems. If parents are in networks, they won’t see us as technological illiterates and, if we’re not here, they’ll see themselves in an area to explore freely without any kind of recommendation”.

The importance of creating specific accounts on children’s mobile phones

Another fundamental pillar for many parents at the time of managing the first telephone is not to offer the terminal as it is but to create an account as a minor and to be able to limit the downloads or use of the same one, needing the permission of the parents for certain tasks, which will facilitate the being able to be graduating its digital autonomy.

“If at the age of 12 we don’t let them do many things alone, we can also participate in this”. With this decision parents will be able to intervene in the decisions that children make with their mobiles.

If a child grows up in a house where technology is included in the rest of the education they receive (rules, dialogue, habits, example…) it will be easier for them to make conscious use of their mobile phone.

“There are many parents who install parental control apps on their children’s mobile phones to check connection time or the most used apps, and this is positive especially if we use the information to dialogue with them. The relationship that parents establish with our children in terms of the use of their Smartphone usually has to do with warnings about dangers or with messages of ‘you are always stuck to the mobile’, so we can try to find other conversations that have to do with their options to participate in technology in creative ways and ‘different’ to the typical”.

That positive parental work is key. It is important to insist that you do not limit your world to your mobile phone, “that you understand that you can do many more things with your time, even digital but without a smartphone in between”.

If those first steps with the mobile phone are done together and early, there are benefits. The most direct thing is that, in these conversations and negotiations, adults will learn and know more about what they like and are interested in. In fact, if parents don’t manage it, children acquire an enormous freedom that no one is telling them how to deal with and in which they are likely to collide with situations that don’t benefit them.

“They will accept more easily that we intervene in some decisions if they release mobile with 13 than if they do it with 17”.

Many of the problems that children experience when they live in the digital world have to do with behavior and not with purely technological aspects.

What if parents don’t know how to deal with these technical issues of creating accounts, limiting uses, or managing the child’s own phone? It is inevitable to think that technology has complicated education.

“It’s all much more difficult because we used to think we had control over what children saw or read. Now, we need more dedication and more time, but above all we need to learn, to learn with them in order to take advantage of the networks and the apps because they can bring us so much and, at the same time, to warn and know the dangers that are many and, sometimes, very little controllable”.

What Mobile to buy for a Teenager: Recommendations and best Models

All the experts consulted agree on what a first mobile phone should have if we are going to give it to a child: that it is basic, simple to handle, not very expensive and above all that they understand that the owner is the father, mother or both, who have paid for it and provide it with the data plan if it has been agreed.

“Pre-teens need a simple smartphone, which allows them to communicate via telephone and with capacity for the most used apps, WhatsApp and Instagram. It makes sense to start with a basic, low-cost phone.

A child’s first phone should be able to run the most commonly used applications at his or her age or make and receive calls. There are no technical characteristics more desirable than others, but as the mobile phone should not be understood as a toy, it is better to avoid it looking like a toy.

It is common for this first phone to be a second-hand terminal, already used by parents or an older sibling and with which they can work for two or three years. Some strategies to manage those first years may lead to the purchase or move to a higher model as a reward for the good use of the previous one.

When choosing your first mobile phone, avoid whims or assumptions that you can aspire to the same mobile as an adult or to the mobile that you can’t even have.

But be very careful with the features or technologies included in the model that we decide to lend them at any time, especially the first one. It is important that parents know how to deal with the technical issues related to the new mobile phone.

Rebeca and Marga point to these technological capabilities as an important basis in managing the use of a child’s first mobile phone.

“The mobile phone is like when television arrived. We parents can decide what our children see because we know the content of a certain movie or series. The same thing happens with the mobile. If we don’t know how to use it or what networks our children are on and why, we won’t be able to accompany them in this learning”.

If the phone that we leave to minors supports fingerprint identification, restricting use of applications or creation of different profiles, and parents do not understand how these features are managed and work, they will not be able to educate in a good use for example passwords or protection of personal data. “They will be able to create another profile without us knowing it or realizing it.

There are parents who insist on the need to have this technical knowledge, but not to be overwhelmed neither by not knowing them all nor by having to learn.

Parents don’t always know how to deal with situations that arise as our children grow up; it’s not just something that happens with technology. When we want to mediate in a technological way in the first devices of our children, it is important first of all to take it easy, we can not know everything.

In order to achieve this learning there are numerous websites where you can get information. The mobile shop itself can be a pillar or serve as advice, and do not forget that both Apple and Google have detailed steps to set up the account from which children manage their mobile.

In relation to which operating system to choose for a child’s first phone, the two market options, iOS and Android, are valid but with important nuances and differences between them. In Android we have the ability to create different user profiles and manage the configuration more or less broadly depending on the manufacturer. But there is an immense ecosystem of applications and numerous ways to establish parental control.

If we opt for iOS, there is a good management of the family (although each with its device), stricter control of applications and security of the device, although it must be known that it does not support different profiles on the same device, in addition to these are more expensive than equivalent in Android.

In iOS there is the option of restrictions, a mode that allows parents to manage the full use of the phone, from the data to the camera or even the volume of the sound.

Regarding the configuration and parental control options, they are very complete and organized, and we can resort to this option in the absence of different profiles in the same device. If we are going to leave our iPhone to a child or configure an old model for use (or even new if we want), there is the Restrictions option, which includes almost everything we need to manage that phone, from location to restriction of applications, use of the camera, the app store or content not suitable for the age we dial. We can even limit the audio volume of the device.

More model possibilities and different features support hugging Android for a child’s first phone. Within the input range, which is what we recommend according to the guidelines of the experts consulted, there are dozens of models with different screen sizes, finishes and configurations.

10 Mobiles of less than 150 Euros recommended for Children

Buying a mobile phone from a child is a strictly personal decision and responsibility of the parents or guardians. Although it is possible to choose a terminal of any range and characteristics, in Xataka we have chosen 13 models of varied characteristics but of entry range and with a current market price lower than 150 euros, attending to the recommendations of the experts.

  • BQ Aquaris U2 Lite
  • Nokia 5
  • Energy Sistem Neo 2
  • Sony Xperia L1
  • LG K10 2017
  • Huawei Y6 2017
  • Motorola Moto G5
  • ZTE Blade V7 Lite
  • iPhone SE
  • Samsung Galaxy J3