The days when mobile phones were just for adults are long gone – figures from the National Literacy Trust suggest that 86% of school-age children own a mobile phone, and the age at which kids get a phone of their own is getting younger and younger.
So if you’ve decided that it’s time for your child to get a mobile, here are some tips to help you find the right phone and tariff and also to keep their bills in check and make sure they stay safe.
Choosing the best mobile phone tariff for kids
It's easy to rack up a big mobile bill without realising you've done it no matter what your age. So a contract mobile phone probably isn’t the best choice of phone for kids.
Pay as you go phones are the best way to help keep costs under control.
They also help children to understand the costs and responsibilities of having a mobile, because pre-pay tariffs will only allow your child to make calls and texts when there is enough credit available, giving them (and you) a very clear picture of how much their phone use is costing.
Another advantage of pay as you go is that all the networks offer free texts or minutes if you top up by a certain amount each month, which is a good way to further cut costs.
And keep an eye out for features like emergency reserve funds which mean your child will still be able to make a call if their credit has run out.
As your child gets older, becomes more responsible and their usage increases, you might find that it’s cheaper to switch to a contract.
One way of building up to a contract safely might be to switch to a SIM only deal. With SIM only, it's possible to sign up for a one month rolling contract, so if their spending gets out of hand you can easily cancel with 30 days notice and switch back to pay as you go.
Getting the right mobile phone for kids
There are lots of good pay as you go phones on the market that are both affordable and come with the latest technology. However, the most cutting-edge handsets are only likely to be available on a contract.
Getting the latest and greatest phone for your child might also mean other charges, like insurance to cover damage and loss, so a cheaper pay as you go handset is probably a better starting point.
You don’t need to spend a lot to get a phone with all the features your child will want - there are some great affordable pay as you go phones with cameras, apps and games for less than £100.
Keeping your child safe with their mobile
These days, mobiles aren’t just for calls and texts - most phones now come with the ability to go online, which can open up a whole new can of worms when it comes to keeping an eye on your child, who they’re talking to and what they’re looking at.
Each mobile network will have its own policy on content protection and internet browsing, so it’s worth reading up on your network's mobile internet policy to see what protections they offer.
We have a comprehensive guide on how to keep your children safe online and the benefits and limits of parental control software. Here's everything you need to know about children and smartphones.