Is 8 too young to have a mobile phone? A mum has contacted FamilyPoint for advice in this week’s A Problem Shared…
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Should I buy my 8-year-old daughter a phone? I feel as though I am the only wicked mother out there as, one by one, all of her friends have had phones over the last year. I’ve always been dead against this thinking kids should be kids for as long as they can be. I don’t want the arguments. I like the fact that she plays with her little brother and that she’s a creative person. I like the fact that she talks to us and I don’t want her face stuck in a mobile phone all the time!
I’m worried about the cost with big bills, or needing to top up often, fixing breakages etc. I worry about her using the Internet and seeing things that she shouldn’t be seeing.
But I do like the thought that I could get in touch with her at any time, and if she needed to contact me that she could. This is something that could sway me, but do the other things outweigh this?
Am I being too strict?
Our FamilyPoint Advice on mobile phones
It’s common for parents to worry about this issue, as children are comfortable with technology at a much younger age. This can be a tricky parenting dilemma. There are no specific laws about this so you need to use your judgement as a parent. The fact that you have contacted us at FamilyPoint suggests that you have some reservations about allowing your daughter to have a mobile at 8 years old.
Some parents may see no harm in it but you are right to have concerns, there can be risks for an 8 year old using a mobile phone, but there can also be potential benefits.
Negatives of having a mobile phone
- Distraction– They can be distracting and have a negative impact on levels of concentration
- Access – Providing free access to the Internet and social media. This can be a danger in itself. Read our article to find out how to create a safer Internet for your child
- Privacy – Encourages a level of privacy that you may not be comfortable with at 8 years old. You may not know who she could be contacting.
- Expense – They can be very expensive, especially ones on contract that can lead to large bills. In-app purchases can be expensive, especially when playing games online
- Reduces social interaction – Mobile phones can reduce the need to interact face to face. Could introducing a phone too early harm your child’s social opportunities and skills?
- Impacts mental health– They can be addictive and are thought to have a negative impact on sleep patterns
Positives of having a mobile phone
- Practicing technology – Internet matters (2017) highlights that using technology at an early age can encourage creativity, have a positive impact on language skills and social development. It can also give your child a head start in a society ever obsessed with technology and its advancements. Internet Matters has some useful resources for children aged 6-10
- Being in touch – The fact that your child has a mobile phone can give you peace of mind that you know where they are and can get in touch with them if you need. They can also get in touch with you easily if they need to.
Try asking yourself why you are making this decision when you don’t feel comfortable with it. Make your decision based on what’s right for you. Don’t be pressurised by what everyone else is doing. Does your 8 year old actually need a mobile phone?
As children get more independent, mobile phones are useful for parents to stay in touch with their children as they head out into the world without you at their side. There are a number of questions you could ask yourself:
- Is your daughter likely to be venturing out alone?
- If she goes to extra-curricular clubs or after school activities will she have time to use a mobile phone?
- Other children in your daughter’s class may have a mobile phone but is she likely to maintain contact with them?
If the answers to the above questions are ‘no’ then is there really a need for her to have a mobile phone? This may not be the answer your daughter wants to hear but maybe you could set a date when she can have a mobile phone, or compromise and get a tablet that all of the family can use?
If the answers to the questions are ‘yes’ and you have decided that this is the right thing for you and your daughter, then there are ways to minimise the negative impact.
Setting ground rules
- Set boundaries – Be clear about when she is allowed to use her mobile phone. Consider having mobile free zones like the dinner table, school etc.
- Encourage appropriate use – Introduce your daughter to times when it is appropriate to use the phone to avoid excessive usage. Talk to her about the dangers of inappropriate mobile use, e.g. sexting or cyber bullying.
- Parental Controls –Manage safety settings on the mobile phone or you could go for an older phone model instead of a smartphone. Internet Matters have a free e-safety app to help parents talk about e-safety issues and the NSPCC have a parental controls guide on their website.
- Cost –Manage the cost by placing a cap on the amount that the phone can be used or choose a pay as you go phone. Both options will be available from most network providers. PSA has some advice about this on their website.
This is a decision that only you can make based on what is right for you and your daughter. If you would like to talk about this further with one of our advisors, call the FamilyPoint helpline on the details below.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
Good luck in making your decision.
The FamilyPoint Team
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