As a parent of multiple teens and tweens, mobile phone use is a contentious issue. Deciding when to get one, the type of phone to choose, what features to allow, how to navigate internet use, social media... it’s a minefield.
And as time goes on, it seems children are asking for – and expecting – phones earlier and earlier. Combine that with older children who already have a phone, and it’s a lot of pester power thrust onto parents.
I’m in a blended family with five children. The eldest received his first phone as a teenager for his first year of secondary school, and we made the decision that we’d follow suit with all the younger kids.
Fast forward a few years, and four out of five are connected to Optus, while my youngest – at almost 10 years of age – should have a good three more years to go.
Only, she doesn’t want to wait three years, and she's put up a solid case as to why she shouldn’t have to. She’s starting a new school next year, she reminded us. She’ll be in Grade 5, and will be catching the bus for the first time. Granted, her older brother will be on the same bus, but as my daughter points out, she can’t rely on someone else all the time, plus he may have days off school.
She makes a good point.
I really don’t like the idea of her catching the bus to and from school without my being able to contact her, or her me, and without the ability to track her whereabouts through the family tracking apps on which I've come to rely.
But at just nine years of age, there’s so much to consider.
For starters, there’s the issue of online safety. The internet can be a treacherous space, and handing my child a device with unrestricted access to it feels like letting her explore uncharted territory, potentially dangerous. How do I ensure they're shielded from inappropriate content, cyberbullying, or potential online predators?