First Phones for Kids: What Parents Need to Know

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-08-11 Print this article Print

The study also found that 90 percent of kids think it's OK for parents to set rules concerning how they can and can't use their phones, though only 66 percent of kids said their parents actually do this. Thirty-eight percent of parents (according to the kids) didn't talk to their kids about being safe when using a mobile phone.

Additionally, 53 percent of kids said they'd ridden with someone who was texting and driving; 22 percent said they'd been bullied via text message; and 46 percent said "a friend" had received a message or photo that was more sexually explicit than their parents would approve of.

"How you treat your kids' phones is part of our parental philosophy," Roger Kay, principal analyst with EndPoint Technologies, told eWEEK. "You kind of give them a tour and say here's the good stuff, here's what to avoid, and then you let them do their thing."

Kay chuckled and then added, "Or, that's my take, anyway. My son told me and my wife recently, 'You're the most liberal parents I know.'"

For those parents unsure of how to talk with their kids about a first phone, Safely offers a five-point "mobile phone contract" that parents can download and have kids sign. One point is, "A phone is never more important than human beings." Another is, "A phone is a privilege." The finer print under that last one reads: "Prove yourself incapable of making good decisions with this phone, and you may have to resort to tin cans and string to get in touch with anyone."

"Years ago, back before modern smartphones, I was looking at location-based services and thought I would totally use them when I gave my daughters phones," said Ken Hyers, a senior analyst with Strategy Analytics.

"Oddly enough, now that my kids have the phones, I don't use those services," he continued. "My kids would realize it was on, and it would alienate them. My teenager would sooner throw her phone away than have me peering over her like that. [My] 12-year-old would accept that it's the price to pay. But I know for certain that if I activated the GPS, the 14-year-old would seriously throw it away."

Kay takes a different approach.

"The other day my daughter turned off the location services and I let her know ASAP: Turn it back on! It's like an ankle bracelet. We need to know where you are!"

He added that his daughter could appreciate other benefits of the technology. Days earlier she'd lost the phone but was able to locate it on a map. Kay's wife drove to the spot "and they found it at night, at the side of the road, under a pile of leaves," he said.

"Between 16 and 18 they still need a fair amount of supervision, but at 18, you're done," he said, a little bitter-sweetly, before his tone turned wry. "I mean, their judgment is pretty poor until they're about 24, but you can't do much about that."

Prepaid or Family Plan?

A month-to-month contract on a very inexpensive phone is in many cases the way to go.

"A lot of parents are starting out their kids on prepaid. There's an allotment of minutes, and that's it," said Hyers.

But, he added, "More and more, kids are starting out with smartphones added on to postpaid family plans. It's a nice excuse for the parent to upgrade. Mom gets the iPhone 5, and the kid gets the hand-me-down iPhone 4."


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel