Parenting for mobile phones — advice and tips for happy mobile children

You may have heard Shane on the Ray Darcy show on RTE1 recently speaking about giving mobile phones to children. Deciding when to give a child their first mobile phone has become a rite of passage for parents, and the topic brings with it a range of obstacles to be navigated. Here, we've included links to the main topics that were covered on the radio.

Giving a mobile to a child is a parenting decision that should, above all, take into account the maturity of the child in question. The best way to keep children safe online and on mobile remains to talk to them, and keep communication open.

However, some technology can help along the way!

Budget Smartphone Devices 

The new Apple iPhone 6s, while desirable, will leave a hefty hole in your pocket, as will the latest Samsung Galaxy S7. As such, you may not want to hand over close to €750 to give this phone to a child that may lose or damage it. Never fear, there's now a huge range of smartphones available that have massive power, great screens, and powerful cameras available at a fraction of the cost of the mainstream flagships. The key phones discussed on the show were:

Other brands with quality devices to look at include Asus, Alcatel, and Nexus.

OnePlus X

OnePlus X

Software

When your children start to use technology to access the internet, steps can be taken to reduce their exposure to unsuitable content, and the relative dangers of the internet. Schools often include information on this topic as part of classes, but always remember, as a parent, you can remove internet privileges if the boundaries are crossed. Software that might help in this area includes:

  • FamilyShield: Great free software that operates on the router in your house, blocking unfriendly content from your wifi network. Easy to set up with excellent coverage. However, this only works for wifi (not 3G/4G mobile signals) and blocks everyone not just you're wandering teen.
  • Device settings: Familiarise yourself with the "restricted user" functionality on Android and the "set restrictions" on iPhone before handing over devices. Windows Phone includes a "Kid's Corner" function that can block off different systems as required.
iOS restrictions settings

iOS restrictions settings

  • Social media: Remember that the minimum age for Facebook is 13, so it's not meant to be completely child friendly. On YouTube and Google, you can help by turning on "safe search" to filter unsuitable content.
  • Software packages: Some good packages for monitoring and filtering content from children that are worth reading about include Net Nanny, Norton Family, and Qustodio. For example, Qustodio allow parents to monitor children's behaviour on social media and limit overall screen time. They also offer a free tier to try them out.
phonebill

Bills and Costs

Most parents want children to have a phone in order to keep in touch once they've reached a certain age. The average age for first getting a phone is 11.9 years, and over 1/3 of under-15 year olds in the UK have a mobile phone.

Remember that if you add your child to your own bill-pay mobile plan, you will be liable for any overage costs (which can be large) if they overuse, or if the phone is lost or stolen. For this reason, at KillBiller we recommend looking at prepay plans in conjunction with some of the smartphones listed above.

Children will need lots of data for Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and WhatsApp etc. Ideally, include texts for free to keep in touch. Some good value prepay plans available on the Irish market are:

Who's paying that Bill?

Some parents elect to include phone bill costs as part of monthly pocket money, others agree to pay until employment. Whatever you choose, we don't think you'll need to pay more than about €20 per month to keep your child with ample usage allowances. If you don't want to include data, and keep access limited to wifi, have a look at some of the cheaper sub €15 plans.