For many parents, arguing with your children because you won’t buy them a new gadget is far from a rare occurrence, but one battle that is particularly long fought is that over when to buy their first mobile phone.
A new study by Aviva has revealed that one in eight children in the UK have a mobile phone of their own by the time they are eight-years-old. While the most common age for a child to be given their first phone is eleven.
Most parents cite safety as the most common reason for getting a child a phone, however 23% of parents admit giving in to demand simply because their child’s peers are being bought them.
The Huffington Post UK Parents spoke to Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children, and Cathy Ranson, editor of Channel Mum about what parents can say when confronted with a child who just won’t take no for an answer.
1. Ask them why they need it.
For lots of children who are pressuring their parents into making a decision, the primary motivation for having their own phone is that everyone else at school has one. So ask your child why they want it, beyond trying to fit in with the crowd.
“If they already have a tablet, ask them what functionality the phone has that their tablet doesn’t,” advised Ranson.
“There’s probably an app or some functions you can show them how to use that will replicate how a phone works. For example, Facetime or iMessage (depending on their age of course).”
2. Explain the cost.
A smartphone is by no means a cheap investment, with the initial cost of the device, the insurance, and the contract – even if you opt for pay as you go, it’s still not going to come for free. Instead of carrying the financial burden yourself, give your child the accountability for the luxury of having a phone.
“Explain the cost and develop a plan for the child to earn their phone and their monthly credit, which will help them evaluate their options,” said Gummer.
“Children can earn phone credits and maybe have to prove themselves for a few weeks before they are allowed a phone.”
3. Offer them your phone.
Because many children just want a phone to fit in with their peers, they only have ambitions to play games and mess around on the device rather than actually use it to call anyone – in fact, who are they planning on calling?
So save yourself the cost and aggravation of them being connected to the wider world by giving children an old handset without a SIM.
“This means they can use a lot of the functionality but without the cost of a PAYG SIM or contract,” said Ranson. “This trick could buy you an extra nag-free year.”
4. Manage future expectations.
If you plan on sticking by your guns and not conceding just yet, you may save yourself some earache by explaining exactly when they can expect a phone of their own.
“Explain to them when you think it’s appropriate for them to have a phone,” said Ranson.
“For example, in your first year of big school because you’ll be travelling to school and can ring me if your bus doesn’t turn up. Or in your final year at junior school as you’ll be walking some of the way to school by yourself.
“Explaining it’s just not now, and not never, might stem the pressure.”
5. Pick a birthday.
And if you can’t think of a time when you will see a genuine reason, for example, if you’ll be taking them to and from secondary school, so you know they are safe. Then instead pick a birthday in a couple of years time as your turning point, then they know they are working towards a fixed date rather than working on grinding you down until you have a change of heart.
Gummer said: “Say that in your family, children can have a phone for their ‘x’ birthday and stick to it.”