How young is too young to have a mobile phone? This is just one of the hot topics hitting the Mumsnet boards now that it's back to school time. We've been diving into the online community to get answers.
As kids across the country head back to school, many parents are starting to wonder how old is old enough when it comes to giving children their first smartphone. We’ve joined up with Mumsnet – the UK’s biggest online parenting community – to provide help families to understand how they can get the most out of mobile and the web.
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To kick things off, we’ve been talking to Mumsnet’s Sarah Crown about the burning issues and hot topics that have been filling the message boards this month. So, how old is old enough when it comes to kids’ first smartphone? And should parents monitor their children’s social networks? Read on to find out what the Mumsnet community has to say…
“One perennial topic these days is the point at which children should be given their first mobile,” Sarah tells us. “The title of one of our most popular threads this month was, ‘What’s a normal age for children getting their first mobile phone?‘
“Peer pressure [over mobile phones at school] can make parents wonder if they’re being fair or not.”
“The opening poster, whose child was 10 years old, took the view that 10 was too young to have a smartphone, but while some posters agree with her, others felt that in fact it there were real advantages to having a mobile at that age, not least the safety aspect – they liked being able to contact their child during the walk to school, if they’re at a friends’ house, or in emergencies.”
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Sarah explains that many Mumsnet users feel under pressure from children who want to match their friends on the tech front, too – particularly in September, at the start of the new school year. “Many Mumsnet users talk about their children coming back from school and saying that everyone else has a phone,” she says.
Such peer pressure “can make parents wonder if they’re being fair or not. In fact, we have a dedicated topic on our talk boards called ‘Am I being unreasonable?‘ – one of our most popular areas – in which users can gauge what’s normal practice across a range of issues, including the question of children and technology. The landscape is constantly changing,” she adds. “Children now are used to using technology from a far, far younger age than their parents’ generation.”
“Another topic that’s coming up regularly these days is Instagram,” says Sarah. “Many users are wary of their children using it; there was a thread recently (‘Instagram for 11 year olds?‘) which saw fairly varied responses.
“Many users are wary of their children using Instagram…”
“Legally, you have to be at least 13 to sign up to the service, so naturally many Mumsnetters replied to say that an account was out of the question – but there were responses on the other side, too; one poster said she was reassured through social media that her quiet boy had friends.
“All of those who were pro-Instagram said that these accounts would have to be private, though – and said that they would have to keep an eye on who follows their children on the service.
“Looking at it from a parent’s perspective,” Sarah says, “it’s easy to see how some people view their children’s forays into social media and mobiles as a loss of control – the internet is this big, other world, after all. But a lot of Mumsnetters agree that, with effective ground rules, this kind of technology can be a positive influence on family life. A lot of parents on Mumsnet see phones and technology as a portal to education and family communication, rather than as something to fear.”
More from Mumsnet… We’ll be talking to Sarah again next month for another chat about the big tech parenting questions. In the meantime, check out what’s hot at Mumsnet right now.