Choosing when to give children their first mobile phone is one of the hardest decisions a parent or carer will make in their child’s life, according to research. A poll of 1,000 parents, with children aged between eight and 17, revealed they find it equally as hard as choosing which school their children should go to (36 percent), and more difficult than deciding who they should be playing with (29 percent).
But the decision that mums and dads struggle the most with is when their children should be allowed to go to the park or shops by themselves (56 percent).
The research, conducted by Vodafone UK to launch its new partnership with the NSPCC, and offer a new platform of resources to support parents with buying a first phone, revealed 74 percent of parents and carers feel it is important for a child to have a phone when they start secondary school.
But over half (56 percent) worry about them having one, while 28 percent of parents find buying children their first phone difficult, because they state they don’t feel equipped to keep their children safe online.
Meanwhile, 53 percent say it is because they are worried about them seeing inappropriate content, or being bullied online.
The NSPCC reports that in 2022/23, 10 percent of calls to its Helpline that focused on mobile phones or online platforms took place in August – highlighting a spike in online safety concerns ahead of the new school term.
Of those parents who have given their children a phone, 42 percent did so to keep them safe when travelling to and from school.
And 35 percent felt it was important for their child to keep in touch with friends outside of school.
But while parents are worried about a first phone, children are excited – asking for a phone multiple times a week from the age of nine, on average.
When the time arrived, parents said children were more excited about getting their first phone than their first pet or first bicycle.
However, 21 percent parents find it hard to know which mobile phone to pick for their children.
And nearly one in 10 (nine percent) spend five months or more discussing when to buy their child their first phone, according to the OnePoll.com data.
Interestingly, 48 percent said they would consider the sustainable option and choose a refurbished phone to give to their child.
As part of its partnership with the NSPCC, Vodafone is launching a growing online platform of resources to help keep children safe online, and provide top tips for buying a child their first phone.
Nicki Lyons, chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at the telecommunications company, said: “We know a child’s first phone is a big moment for families – exciting for children, but bringing with it new concerns for parents and carers.
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“Our research highlights that many mums, dads, and carers don’t feel confident they know all they need to keep their children safe online, or where to start with choosing their first phone.
“That’s why, for well over a decade, we’ve been committed to helping them navigate being online with their children.
“And now, working with the NSPCC, we’re supporting parents with more practical resources and tips, to give them the tools and confidence they need when their children step into the online world with their first phone.”
The survey also revealed most parents don’t feel confident setting up safety features on key applications that children use – such as BeReal (93 percent), Snapchat (85 percent), and TikTok (81 percent).
Kate Edwards, associate head for child safety online, said: “At the NSPCC, we are doing everything within our power to ensure that children are safe when they enter the online world, including campaigning for a more robust online safety bill.
“We know a child’s first steps, first words, and first day at school are all exciting moments for families – but getting a first phone is one which can be tempered by fear.
“This is why our partnership with Vodafone is so important. Together, we can support parents to understand how to keep children safe.”
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