Does my child need a mobile phone?

There is no doubt in this technological age, that children and mobile phones are very compatible. But with the purchase of a mobile comes a certain amount of responsibility, and children need to learn how to take care of a mobile, and how to stay safe using this technology.

A new research by Telstra* has revealed that parents purchase mobile phones for their kids mainly because of concern for kids’ safety (62 per cent), and the need to keep in touch (34 per cent).

According to Jenny Young, Executive Director, Telstra Consumer, in addition to traditional staples such as uniforms and backpacks, many parents may be adding mobile phones to this year’s back-to-school shopping lists. 

“Kids are getting more independent and we are seeing more and more parents purchasing mobile phones for their school-age children”, said Jenny. “Interestingly, our research shows this is less about kids being able to ring their friends, but more so mum and dad can rest assured they can contact their children and vice versa should the need arise.”

Despite these good intentions, Telstra’s research shows one in five adults would not be confident teaching a child how to use their mobile device or manage their mobile phone bill.

The majority of mobile phones are flashy pieces of technology and, if your children’s friends all have a mobile, then your child will most probably feel they need one as well. For older children who may be independently using public transport to get to and from school, a mobile is probably essential to communicate with home. Mobiles certainly make it easier to relay where to be collected, whether you’re going to be late or in cases of emergency.

Unfortunately, however, the reality is that a flashy phone can also make your child a target for theft, and if not used responsibly, your child’s safety could also be at risk.

If, in your opinion, your child is mature enough to manage a mobile phone, then it’s important that they understand having a mobile is both a privilege and a responsibility.

Tips for parents to ensure kids are mobile-confident:

  • Check-in with your child’s school. Speak with their teachers about whether there are any guidelines in place for students on using their mobile responsibly while in the school gate and identify ways you can work together to combat any issues which may arise.
  • Get the low-down on costs. Many mobile phone companies offer different rates, and perhaps even free calls or text messages, depending on who is called, and what day or time the calls are made. Pre-paid mobile phones are often the best way to go for young people – it means the minutes are paid for up-front and there is no bill to deal with at the end of the month.
  • Set-up call barring. Check for options that can help minimise your child’s mobile spend, including bars on premium text messages and international direct dial calls.
  • Ensure their Bluetooth is not ‘discoverable’. This means that it can’t be found or discovered by other Bluetooth-enabled devices searching for another one. Keeping their phone undiscoverable is a good protection against hackers.
  • Label their phone. This will help your child easily identify their mobile and potentially deter any would-be thieves.

Teaching tips for kids in how to be mobile-confident:

  • Privacy is your number one priority. Only give out your mobile number to people you know and trust.
  • Bullying is never ok. If you get an insulting message (or just one you don’t want) don’t respond. Keep the message (and time and date it was sent) as evidence, and tell your parents, teacher or another adult.
  • Think before you send. The person who you send information, pictures or videos to may not be the only one who will see them – so if you don’t want them to go public, don’t send them.
  • Don’t accept offers that sound too good to be true. Some text messages can cost a lot of money. These are known as premium text messages and are often used for competitions and voting services. Be sure you understand the total cost and check with your parents before accepting any offers.
  • Use your phone’s security features. For example, you can set a Personal Identification Number (PIN), which must be entered before anyone can use your phone.

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