When’s the right time to buy your child’s first mobile phone?
Buying your child’s first phone is a huge buying decision and there is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Every parent goes through this milestone moment as their child takes the next step towards independence. It might be when their child starts walking to school on their own, catching public transport, or visiting friends more often.
Mobile phones are a great way for your kids to keep in touch. But they also come with added challenges – opening the door to on-the-go gaming, social media, and of course, a lot more screen time. So, when’s the right time to take that leap?
Find the right time for you
Every child is different, and there is certainly no one one-size-fits-all approach to the first mobile phone conundrum.
Some cyber safety providers recommend ages 11 to 12 as the right starting point for a first phone. ySafe’s Managing Director and clinical psychologist, Jordan Foster says kids are looking to push boundaries by the time they reach 13 to 14 years of age. If you can set some guidelines around mobile phone usage before this time, your kids will be more likely to comply with the rules as they grow older.
While your child’s age is a good base line, think about your child’s maturity level too. To help with this, the Australian eSafety Commissioner suggests considering these questions:
- Does your child have a good sense of responsibility?
- Can they stick to the rules?
- Do they show an understanding of their actions and the consequences? Do they come to you (or another trusted adult) with concerns or problems?
If it’s time to take the big step towards a first mobile phone plan, the following tips can help make it a positive experience for everyone.
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Set boundaries early
Many parents would agree that household rules are important, and setting rules around the mobile phone is no different. Make sure they are clear from the start.
First, set designated ‘mobile phone hours’ for screen time. If you don’t want phones at the table at dinner, explain family time isn’t phone time.
To make sure they’re not messaging friends or watching hours of TikTok past lights out, designate a centralised place to charge the phone at night. It shouldn’t be in their bedroom – try somewhere like the kitchen or lounge room. This provides a clear boundary – when the phone is on the charger, that’s it for the night. Your guidelines will help them understand those expectations and be prepared to honour them.
Enforce positive cyber safety early
Your kids probably access the web through other devices, for schoolwork or streaming but conversations about cyber safety become more important than ever once they have their own mobile phone.
To monitor cyber safety, check on your child’s mobile app downloads regularly. You’ll also want to keep an eye on their data usage.
When talking to your kids about cyber safety, explain the dangers and the warning signs – and most importantly, encourage open conversations. Remind your child that if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable or scared online, they can ask you or another trusted adult for help at any time without fear of getting in trouble.
The Australian Government’s eSafety website is an excellent guide, with lots of kid-friendly info on being kind, secure, curious, and safe on the web.
Sign up for a Mobile SIM only plan
Your old device could be the perfect starter phone for your child. With AGL’s mobile SIM only plans, you can bring a phone of your choice that’s compatible with the Optus mobile network – making it more cost-effective.
You won’t need to worry as much about getting a new mobile phone lost or damaged. And since you’re already familiar with how it works, you’ll be able to get your child up and running in no time.
Set parental control
Many parental apps can help monitor your child’s phone. These apps can help you find your child’s location (which can be very comforting as they become more independent) and decides which apps or sites they can access.
One of them is ‘Find my phone’ where you can register your phone and find its location online if the phone is switched on. This helps to locate lost or stolen phones. You can even track moments like when your child gets on the bus and hops off safely at school and navigate directions to your child if you need to pick them up.
Apps like Family Zone allow you to set up limits on in-app purchases, screen time and social media. You can also block apps selectively and automatically filter out adult content. This provides extra reassurance for your own mobile phone rules and cyber safety measures. Just remember, these apps require data to function.
How we can help
Giving your child their first mobile phone can be a big step. But we’re here to help make the journey a bit easier. Our mobile phone plans are carbon neutral certified by Climate Active and have no lock in contracts. And with plans starting at just $15 a month for 5GB of data, you can get your child connected quickly, easily, and affordably.