What Age Should a Child Have a Smartphone in the UK

What age should a child have a phone in the UK? Read about the pros and cons of giving your child a phone and how to tell if your child is ready for a phone.
Amabel Polglase
May 16, 2023
min read

Many parents worry about giving their children a smartphone. On the one hand, you want your child to have what their friends have and to experience having a phone of their own.

However, you also know the dangers of having a phone as a child. These include cyberbullying, encountering predators online, seeing inappropriate content, and the potential for social media to impact their mental health.

This makes deciding at what age a child should have a phone in the UK difficult.

However, owning a phone is a rite of passage for children. Despite the drawbacks, there are also significant benefits to your child owning a phone. This makes it one of the top things to save up for as a teenager, or child or the number one item on their birthday/Christmas list.

But at what age should a child have a phone – and how do you decide?

What Age Should a Child Have a Phone in the UK?

Most children will be ready to receive their first phone by age 11. According to research,  91% of 11-year-olds in the UK have a smartphone. However, whether your child is ready to receive their first phone is your judgement.

From the age of seven, many children in the UK own and use a smartphone. So, it’s likely your child is pressuring you to buy them a smartphone, too. When deciding what age a child should have a phone in the UK, consider whether you can trust your child to use their phone responsibly, whether you think they’re mature enough and if they’re likely to lose/break their new phone.

Benefits of Giving Your Child a Phone

While parents have justifiable concerns about giving their child a phone, phones can make children safer and even trackable with GPS when out and about. A mobile phone also enables them to socialise with the rest of their peer group, giving them more independence and more opportunity to learn.

Phones can be educational/informative

Though there are plenty of useless apps and websites that your child can access through their phone, they can also access plenty of educational content.

Your child can use apps like Duolingo that make language learning fun; study aids such as Quizlet, and educational money games for kids that can teach them about finance. Not to mention, the answer to anything they’re curious about can be searched online with the click of a button.

Your child is less likely to be left out

Only half of your child’s social life takes place at school. The rest happens through a screen, with group chats involving your child’s friends catching up with each other and even organising group hangouts via screens after the bell has rung.

Buying your child a mobile phone ensures that they don’t miss out on bonding time or social events with their friends. A smartphone ensures they don’t get left behind in their social life.

It can contribute to their safety (and your peace of mind)

One of the main reasons any parent gives their child a phone is for their safety. If your child has a phone, they can call you in an emergency if they’re lost, being followed, or urgently need you to pick them up.

When deciding at what age should a child have a phone, it’s important to consider how often they’re out and about, regardless of age, and whether a smartphone would make them safer.

It gives them independence

Because your child can call you any time they need to, phones give parents the peace of mind they need to give their children more independence, which is essential to a pre-teen.

Simple things like taking the bus on their own, walking the dog solo, or hanging out in the city with friends, are all rites of passage as children grow up and having a phone makes it safer to do so.

Risks To Be Aware of When Giving Your Child a Phone

Giving your child a phone for the first time comes with a host of risks. With the possibility of cyberbullying, seeing inappropriate content online and becoming susceptible to the mental health effects of social media, it’s important to take your child’s phone use seriously.

Here are the top risks to be aware of when deciding at what age should a child have a phone.

They may lose/break the phone

Unfortunately, when you give your child a phone, there’s a chance they’ll lose or break it. It could even be stolen.

You should consider whether you’re prepared to pay for a smartphone with this in mind and whether you’re prepared to replace it. You may want to buy your child an older, refurbished smartphone model to minimise the loss should they lose their phone.

Phones expose them to dangers online

While accessing the internet from your phone has many advantages, it also comes with dangers, especially for children.

From cyberbullying to seeing inappropriate content online to interacting with strangers, it’s no wonder that parents are cautious about giving their child a smartphone. However, you can remove a lot of this risk by managing how your child uses their phone.

Phones can be addictive

Being able to contact their friends with a click of a button, use social media, which is built to be addictive, and access a limitless selection of gaming apps may make your child addicted to their phone.

This can keep them from connecting with the family or friends in real life, engaging with their other hobbies, or doing things they need to do, like homework. So, it’s a good idea to monitor and restrict the time they spend on their phone.

They may spend money without permission

One of the worries for parents giving their child a phone is that shopping online is so easy. In other words, if your child finds your credit card, they could spend your money without you knowing.

HyperJar’s kid card can help to alleviate this concern. If your child wants to buy something online, the Hyperjar prepaid kid’s debit card minimises risks when shopping online since they can’t spend more than they have. It also prevents your child from using your card, so the funds in your bank account stay safe.

Consider Phone Parental Control Apps

While there are some inherent risks for children using phones, making deciding what age should a child have a phone in the UK such a tricky choice, many of these can be mitigated by putting parental controls on your child’s phone.

Parental control apps can give you the ability to limit your child’s screen time, filter content, block inappropriate apps and/or websites, and even look at what your children are viewing online. This is less to do with spying on them and more todo with making sure the websites they’re using are safe.

Here are several of the best  parental control apps helping parents do his:

·        Qustodio

·        Kaspersky

·        NortonFamily

·        McAfee

Tips forGiving Your Child a Phone

Phones come with both advantages and drawbacks that influence what age a child should have a phone.

When settling on what age should a child have a phone in the UK, you should follow these guidelines to make the experience as positive as possible for both you and your child.

1. Use parental controls

As discussed above, parental controls can make phones significantly safer for children.

The most basic parental control you can implement is setting up your child’s phone password so you can access their phone if necessary. Downloading parental control apps can also shield your child from inappropriate content and sites, block app/in-app purchases, and allow you to see what your child is doing on the internet.

2. Talk to them about the dangers of having a phone

Parental control apps can’t protect your child from every danger online, such as cyberbullies or social media. You can mitigate some of the risk by researching social media, especially TikTok safety, since this is the biggest social media platform used by kids.

It’s important to talk to your children about using their phones safely, handling bullying online, and not becoming a cyberbully.

3. Set an example

You need to do the same if you want your child to limit their screen time, especially when talking to family members or eating at the dinner table.

Children learn by example. Be a good example by learning good boundaries with your own phone..

4. Be honest

If you’re using parental controls to monitor and regulate your child’s phone use, it’s a good idea to be honest about it.

Tell them why you’re doing it - for their own safety – and that you’ll be able to see what they’re doing online. This gives them a chance to regulate their own use of their smartphone and protect their sense of privacy.

5. Don’t be afraid to take it away

If your child repeatedly misuses their phone, don’t be afraid to take it away.

If they’re using the internet in ways they shouldn’t be, if you catch them cyberbullying, or if they simply won’t stop using their new phone despite you asking them to put it down, you can take your child’s phone away until they’ve learned to become responsible.

Is Your Child Ready for Their Own Mobile Phone?

So, at what age should a child have a phone in the UK? There’s no single answer. As a parent, it’s up to you to judge whether you can trust your child to look after their phone, be safe online, and use the phone responsibly and in moderation.

For some children, nine years old your child might be old enough for them to have a phone and use it responsibly. On the other hand, you might judge your child isn’t mature enough until they’re entering secondary school.

Whatever their age, if you make sure to monitor and regulate your child’s phone usage, you can maximise the benefits of having a phone for your child – and give yourself peace of mind that they’re safe.

If you found this article useful, you may be interested in reading a few of our other blogs on your children and money management:

Amabel Polglase

Chief Marketing Officer

Amabel has diverse experience in business, marketing and entrepreneurship, including founding her own successful startup. She served in several senior leadership roles prior to joining HyperJar including Zilch and Curve Card where she led brand, marketing and communications. Before joining the fintech revolution, Amabel was a managing global client partner at Facebook and prior to that at McCann-Erickson, the world’s largest ad network. She volunteers at Girls Out Loud, a charity created to empower and inspire teenage girls, and is also a mentor at The Girls’ Network. She received her MA in history and international relations from the University of St Andrews.

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