UNLIKE a learner’s permit or M15+ rated movies, there are no clear rules that dictate when a child can or should have a mobile phone.
For many it’s almost like a rite of passage to receive one when first starting high school, but statistics released yesterday revealed children as young as five were just as likely to have one in their pocket.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in April 2012, 818,500 children aged five to 14 (29 per cent) had a mobile phone.
For teacher and Link Up co-ordinator Peter Innes, those statistics come as a big surprise.
“I didn’t get my first mobile phone until I was about 50 years old,” Mr Innes said. “Times have definitely changed.”
Mr Innes’ greatest concern lies with the access children have to the internet via their mobiles.
“Most of the phones available now are so are complex that you can access the internet and my concern is the misuse of social media and inappropriate sites through lack of experience at such a young age.”
However, Mr Innes believes the age at which a child should receive a mobile phone is up to the parent.
“I would like to see primary school take on a proactive approach to teaching pupils about sensible mobile phone usage,” he said.
The report also showed the proportion of females with mobile phones (31 per cent) was higher than males (28 per cent), and the likelihood of having a mobile phone increased with age, with 2 per cent of children aged between five and eight having one, increasing to 22 per cent of nine to 11-year-olds and 73 per cent of 12 to 14-year-olds.
Mother-of-three Jilly Martino said each of her kids received a mobile phone when they started high school.
“For me, when my children started travelling on school buses or attending activities, a mobile phone in their pocket gave both of us a sense of security,” Ms Martino said.
Ms Martino said there was a time when she staunchly opposed young children having a mobile phone.
“However, in the unfortunate, all too common situation of separated families, it often means children become independent earlier and again phones give working parents some comfort knowing they can keep in contact with their children.”
So, what kind of phone should you get, and what can you do to your child’s phone to help manage its use?
Telstra Shop Wendouree manager Amanda Price said it’s about being smart and not blowing your budget.
“Smartphones are good because they can access Facebook and the internet on their phone but because they use up data, the minimum spend will be at least $30 a month,” Ms Straga said.
“I always recommend prepaid because of the risk of racking up thousands of dollars, which you wouldn’t know about until the end of the month.”