Children and mobile phones
More and more children get their own mobile phones at an increasingly younger age. What is an appropriate age for children to get their first phone? What should you think about when your child enters the world of mobile phones?
Mobile phones give the opportunity for social contact, and for many this is the main reason for wanting their own phone. Mobiles offer many different possibilities and entertainment experiences: Games, camera and video functions, mp3 player and radio, storage of music and pictures and surfing online (wap). These are functions many young mobile users want.
It’s important that children experience an every day life characterized by adequate predictability, without agreements to ”call me after school” replacing clear arrangements regarding where to go and who to meet. As well as this it’s a good idea for the child to have reached a certain maturity in age with regards to safe use, identifying commercial messages and the understanding of costs. Kids and Media recommend that parents speak with each other about the possibilities and challenges that can arise, and to think through what possibilities and boundaries you want your child to have before you choose a phone and payment plan.
Advice on mobiles for parents
1. Choose a call plan with defined economic limits, for example a pay-as-you-go service or a set monthly rate. This protects against overuse.
2. Most operators offer the possibility to block net surfing access, adverts for ring tones or screensavers and access to premium phone services.
3. Be aware when you choose a telephone for a young child:
- Should it have a picture camera or video camera?
- Should it have Internet access?
- Should it have an mp3-player and radio?
4. Speak with your child about healthy thoughts and good attitudes:
- Use of picture camera and video camera
- Money use
- What’s okay to store on the phone
- How to create a good mobile and net community amongst friends and school friends
5. Teach the child that it’s a good idea to have some breaks from the mobile now and then. The mobile use mustn’t disturb their concentration or rest and the mobile should be turned off during school hours and after bedtime.
6. Talk with other parents about defining limits together, and about when you think it’s okay for children to have their first mobile
7. Be a good example when it comes to positive use of mobiles. Children learn a lot from our own media habits.
8. Invite your child to talk with you if they should experience anything uncomfortable via their mobile phones.
Shopping with your mobile
Mobiles can be used for a lot more than just calling. It’s important to be aware of this, both for children and parents.
Children can, for example, easily order mobile contents services which are paid for through the phone bill. Often, important information is given in small writing and explained in a way that limits children’s understanding of the consequences of their contract.
To avoid economical disagreements over children’s mobile use, there are several strategies which parents should make use of. Parents can choose to block these services completely on the account, or set up an economical limit to a certain sum. By making use of these options, along with registering the child as the user of the mobile account, you can be sure the bill won’t get out of hand. In addition, your child will be protected against receiving unsuitable content.
Talk with the children:
1. Talk with your children about webpages that feature the possibility to buy products or services. Discuss contents and age limits, if there are any, on sites that offer products or services. Agree on ground rules for how to respond to these offers, whether or not it’s ok for the children to spend money on virtual products or services, and how much.
2. Help your children realise that services actually cost money, and that whatever they buy will have to be paid for eventually.
3. Be aware that even if webpages claim they have a limit on how much a user can spend there, the maximum amounts might still be substantial, for example, per month.
4. Get in touch with service providers and telephone operators if you think the amount spent via the mobile phone bill is abnormally large.