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When Is The Right Time To Give Your Child A Mobile Phone?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

A survey by www.webwise.ie found that 53% of Irish kids got their first mobile phone aged 10 years or less. Many parents may see this as being too young. With this in mind, today we are asking when is the right time to give your child a mobile phone?

We'll be speaking to a mother whose children have mobile phones and we'll also be finding out about the various packages currently available for parents wanting to monitor their kids mobile phone use. Our parenting expert Pat Rees is here to speak about the various parenting issues that come with giving your child a mobile phone.

There has recently been a debate on a national parenting website as to when you should give your child a mobile phone. Some parents argued that as schools settle down and extra curricular activities begin many parents will be wondering how to keep in touch with their kids whilst they are away playing sport etc. Some see a mobile phone as the best option to stay in touch, others think that children shouldn't have a phone until their teens. Today we are going to be showing parents the pros and cons of their children having a mobile telephone.

Pat Rees

Pat is a mother of four and is also a state registered nurse. She is a certified midwife and holds a diploma in ophthalmology/family planning/facilitation. She has worked at the Well Woman Center since 1978. Pat regularly gives talks on women's health, parenting, sex education and contraception. Pat is the author of
Positve Parenting and Practical Parenting.

Simon Grehan, Internet Safety Coordinator

Simon Grehan is the Internet Safety Coordinator at the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE). He is actively involved in researching children's use of the Internet, tracking emerging technologies, and raising awareness of the risks associated with their use. In the past year he published research on Irish Children's Online Risk Behaviour and how Irish children Use of Social Networking Websites.

Simon is responsible for Webwise, the Internet Safety initiative involving the NCTE, The National Parents Council, and Childline. This initiative provides advice, support, and tools to teachers, parents, and children to promote safer use of the Internet in Ireland.

The NCTE is the Irish internet safety awareness node of the EU Information Society's safer internet network. It also represents the Department of Education on the Internet Advisory Board in Ireland. In partnership with Childline and the National Parents Council Primary, they operate a 24x7 Internet safety helpline for children and provide a panel of experts to parents associations and schools across the country to deliver information seminars and training to parents.

PAT'S ADVICE

Q. Do you think it is a good thing for a child to have a moblie phone

Like most things there are plus and minuses. A parent may feel her child is safer with a mobile phone and can be contacted. Say she was late picking her up or perhaps the child felt unwell. The downside is she may be more at risk from someone stealing the mobile as muggers are always looking for potential targets.

It gives the child the responsibility of keeping it safe from damage or loss. Be careful of the type of phone the child has as children are usually highly techo skilled and some of them can access the internet from their mobile phones.

There is also the financial responsibility. If it is a pay as you go phone or a bill phone, these aspects should be discussed. The responsibility of when and how the mobile can be used should also be spoken about. There should be trust that the child will not abuse the use of the mobile phoning friends etc . Rules should be worked out between the parent and child and agreed on so the child can feel grown up and feel good about himself that he is trusted with the mobile.

Q. What is a good age for a child to have a mobile?

This is a personal choice depending on lifestyle and circumstances. In this modern busy world of ours the age of people getting mobiles is tending to get younger. Younger children are doing lots of extra curricular activities and are out and about more. I personally feel that secondary school time, when children are starting to spread their wings is a good time, I think not before the child is in double figures. prior to that a child should always be being supervised by an adult , teacher, baby sitter and shouldn't need or have the responsibilty of a mobile.

NB The mobile phone is not a substitute for a babysitter. I asked lots of parents there idea of a good age for a mobile was and some parents said when they can afford one, so its a personal choice. Finally discuss the rules and stick to them all should be well, but the phone is taken away if the rules are not followed.

WHAT KINDS OF PACKAGES ARE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON THE IRISH MARKET FOR PARENTS WANTING TO MONITOR THEIR CHILDRENS MOBILE PHONE USAGE?

Currently all the main operators allow parents to access their child's account. This means that you can log into their account and see all the calls made and received in the last 30 days. Dual access allows both parent and child to have access to the account records held by the mobile operator, including; numbers called, account  balances, and the services available on the mobile phone.

Access to certain services may be barred on the child's handset. To ensure that this procedure is safe and secure, you will need to complete a number of validation steps in order to set up dual access. While it is not compulsory for pre-pay users to register their details with their mobile operator, it is necessary for you and your child to be registered with the mobile operator to avail of the dual access service.

Parents who wish to discuss setting up dual access to their child's account should contact their operator who will discuss how this is done and what information can be provided.

Vodafone currently offer a product called Safety Net which filters internet content on the phones of under 18s, Vodafone Safety Net has also introduced an intermediate level of mobile internet filtering called the Teen Profile for 15 - 18 year olds. This profile is less restrictive than the under 18s profile and allows access to services such as social networking and chat. We automatically apply the Vodafone Safety Net Teen Profile to our PrePay customers who are registered in our system as between 15 - 18 years old.

Age Verification - If you're a Prepay customer and you'd like a profile other than the universal under 18s profile or teen profile, you'll need to visit your local Vodafone Store or Agent and prove your age

Services that aren't available in Ireland but are elsewhere

Location Tracking Service such as http://www.childlocate.co.uk/ -
It lets you locate your child in seconds, anywhere in the UK.

Parental Controls on handsets - phones like Firefly, TicTac and Teddy Phone (http://www.teddyfone.com/) restrict the numbers that children can make calls to and receive calls from. They usually have only 4 buttons so they are also easy to use. The teddy Phone has an optional child tracking service whereby parents can locate their child at the touch of a button.

Parental Controls on the Web - parents can go online and control not only how much their kids use the phones -- but when and even whom they can call. Parents can specify that they can only receive calls from approved friends at approved times.

Interesting Statistics On Irish Childrens Mobile Phone Use
. 53% of Irish kids had a mobile phone before the age of 10
. Irish kids we're found to talk longer on the phone and were alos more likely to buy ringtones and wallpapers for their phones than their European counterparts
. 86% of Irish kids have cameras on their phone and a further two thirds of these use the camera on their phone for taking pictures
. Irish children spend on average €27.10 a month on their mobile phones
. 96% of Irish 13-16 year olds
. 77% of Irish 9-13 year olds have mobile phones.
. 29% of Irish children have had a picture of someone naked sent to their mobile phone
. 9% of Irish children say that they were asked by someone to send them a picture of themselves using a mobile phone that made them feel uncomfortable.

Costs of basic mobile phones, (i.e. with no Internet, no camera)
Even the cheapest phones now come with cameras. So you can buy phones from about €50 - these come with phone credit of up to €80. This free credit is released in €10 tranches every month - but you need to register to avail of it.

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