Children and smartphones | When should a child get a phone | Barclays

When should you give your child their own smartphone?

Expert tips to help you navigate the do’s and don’ts of giving your child their own device

From social media to gaming apps, are you ready to let your little one loose on the internet using their own smartphone? We look at some of the do’s and don’ts to help keep your child safe and secure – and protect your bank balance.

However much you resist it, your child will want their own smartphone at some stage – indeed some children may need one. But for many parents, deciding when the time is right is a tough call.

We’ve asked parent Graham Hope, who has a daughter, Isla, aged 10, to tell us about his experience of giving his child a smartphone. Plus, we’ve spoken to child psychologists and tech experts to get their tips and advice.

A change in personal circumstances can be a trigger for debate

“I recently gave my daughter Isla her very first smartphone - my old phone, to be exact, an iPhone 6,” says parent Graham Hope. “I needed a new phone, and instead of keeping my old one lying around in a drawer, it occurred to me that giving it to Isla could be a good way to introduce her to the world of smartphones.

“She’s 10 and starting secondary school in September, when she’ll be around them a lot more, so this seemed like the right time to get her used to them.

“Naturally, my wife and I heard some stories about kids in Isla’s class who had the latest models, but we made it clear to her that this was what she was getting for the time being. So, once I’d wiped it clean, I passed it on to her.”

Nurture your child’s interests – and get peace of mind too

Graham believes that, if it’s used in the right way, a smartphone can nurture your child’s interests and help them understand how the world works. “Isla comes out with the most amazing stats and facts, which she gets from a podcast that she listens to on her phone.”

“When she goes to secondary school, we’ll be able to keep in touch with her,” says Graham. “She’ll start travelling to school on her own, so it will give us peace of mind.”

Help with homework

Sian Bentley, Moneywise Teacher of the Year winner in 2019, says: “Smartphones help kids to stay safe – parents can track where their children are, and children can stay in contact with friends and family. Kids can use their phones in a variety of useful ways, for instance as a calculator during Maths home learning.”

Set rules for online activity

Ross Martin, Barclays head of digital safety, says that parents should make sure that they educate their child about the various risks they may face online. However, there are also steps parents can take to block websites. “You may be able to set age-appropriate rules for your child’s online activity using your home broadband provider,” he says.

Learn more about ways you can help your children stay safe online

Adopt a flexible approach over phone use: managing how children use their phone

“Isla likes using the property search app on her smart phone,” says Graham. “She’s a big fan of property shows, so she likes to go on her phone afterwards and look at the house prices. If I wanted to know the average cost of a three-bedroom house in Manchester, she could tell me.”

“In terms of rules, we let her know when we feel she’s been on it long enough, which can depend on factors like which apps she’s using or the time of day. If you want to have firmer rules, you could restrict your child to an hour or an hour and a half, but we’ve found that it’s better to be flexible.”

Block inappropriate content with parental controls

Ross Martin suggests setting parental controls on smartphones to prevent their children downloading inappropriate apps. “If you find the Settings menu of the App store on the smartphone, there should be an option for Parental Controls. Set a PIN that your children won’t be able to guess.”

Limit daily screen time

Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, a leading child psychologist, suggests drawing up a set of rules about when your child can and can’t have access to devices. “This can help manage how much time they spend in front of a screen each day.” She also suggests examining the age guidelines on social media apps (most currently have a minimum age requirement of 13 or older), and monitoring which social networks your children are using.

More than half of 10 to 15-year-olds are on WhatsApp, and a fifth of girls aged 10 to 12 are active on TikTok, according to market research.

From 11, your child could have their own BarclayPlus account, a free current account with no monthly fees1 that helps them learn how to look after their money.

If they’ve got a smartphone, they can also check their money when they’re out and about with our app2.

Find out more about the BarclayPlus account