Expert issues top tips for parents under pressure to buy children their first phones this Christmas

It's a watershed moment for any family given the modern world we live in and it can be a daunting prospect but help is at hand

By Reporter
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 4:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 4:18 pm

A mobile phone company is helping parents who are buying their child their first phone this Christmas by teaming up with parenting experts to offer advice on what can be a daunting step.

The ever-increasing demands from children to have their own phone, especially for Christmas has prompted SMARTY Mobile to offer a guide for parents navigating the tricky task.

With the help of parenting expert Anita Cleare, SMARTY Mobile have created their top five tips to help parents this Christmas when buying their child’s first phone:

1. Think about offering your child a phone on a trial basis. This gives your child a chance to show they can be responsible and it gives you a chance to work out how they are going to use it and what rules you might need to have in place around their phone use. A SIM-only deal which is flexible and can be cancelled at any time is really useful for this.

2. Make sure you can contact them at all times. If the main reason you are giving your child a phone is so they can get in touch with you in an emergency, make sure they have unlimited calls and texts so there is no danger of them running out of credit or racking up a huge, unexpected bill. Knowing that they can always contact you provides safety and reassurance.

3. Find a plan that fits your family’s lifestyle. It’s hard to predict how children will use their phone if they’ve never had one before. Some children put it in their bag and hardly touch it while others are non-stop chatting and cat videos that burn through data. And the way children use their phones can change almost overnight as they change schools or take up new activities. So don’t tie yourself into a long contract that won’t be suitable for long or won’t adapt to their changing needs.

4. Start off with a simple phone. Children lose things and drop things. Don’t set them up to fail (and set yourself up for stress!) by giving them the most expensive latest model. Start off with a hand me down or cheap second-hand phone. If they want to upgrade to something fancier, older kids could do jobs around the house to save up for themselves (a great way to help them learn the value of money!). Children learn to be responsible through practise, so start them off with a simple phone and there will be fewer arguments over broken screens and a lot less stress for you.

5. Look for value. When looking for a SIM, minimise the hassle by looking for a brand that is great value all year round rather than a too-good-to-be-true seasonal deal. Transparency is key and you want to be sure there are no hidden costs and no surprise bills. Look to a Which? approved brand like SMARTY, so you can be confident of great value, honesty and no nasty surprises.

Parenting expert Anita Cleare says: "If the time is right for your child’s first mobile phone, keep it safe and simple. Start them off with a cheap second-hand phone so there’s no stress about expensive breakages. Choose an all-inclusive deal so you don’t have to worry about unexpected bills and, if the point of the phone is to be able to contact you in an emergency, make sure they have unlimited calls so there is no danger of them running out of minutes. You will want to put some rules in place around their phone use but be prepared to adapt over time – the way your child uses their phone will change, so be flexible and keep the dialogue open.”

SMARTY Mobile also offers Group Plans, allowing a parent to be the group owner, meaning they can see how much data is left on a plan, and if any add-ons or top-ups are needed for their child. SMARTY also allows you to control any spending on an account, so there are no nasty surprises or overspending, such as calls to premium numbers, which would need to be included as an add-on.