Should a child use a smartphone

Cell phone for children

When is the right age to own a cell phone?

Cell phones and smartphones have long been an integral part of everyday family life.

Not least because of their parents 'usage habits, even toddlers are regularly in contact with their mobile phones: the 2017 BLIKK study showed that around three quarters of children at daycare age use their parents' smartphones for more than half an hour a day.

It is therefore not surprising that many children in elementary school want their own mobile phone - preferably the latest smartphone, of course.

While students dream of unlimited play, streaming and chatting, parents tend to focus on the safety and accessibility of their children. But when are children old enough to be able to use their own cell phone responsibly?

The following tips are designed to help parents and children choose the right phone at the right time.

1. How children use the cell phone - facts and figures

1.1 Graphic: More and more children are using a smartphone

1.2 Graphic: When do children have their own cell phone?

1.3 Graphic: This is how children and young people use the smartphone

2. A separate cell phone for schoolchildren - pros and cons

3. Parents checklist: is my child old enough to have their own cell phone?

1. How children use the cell phone

1.1 Graphic: More and more children are using a smartphone

Smartphone use has increased significantly in recent years, especially among children of primary school age. However, no conclusions can be drawn from this with regard to cell phone ownership. Younger children in particular often use their parents' smartphone to watch videos or play games.

If this trend is followed, it can be assumed that around 70% of all children of primary school age and around 90% of all children aged 10 and over will be using a smartphone by 2020.

1.2 Graphic: When do children have their own cell phone?

The number of 10 to 11-year-olds with their own smartphones has risen by 17% in the last three years - the number of children of primary school age has more than doubled from 7% to 18%.

If one derives a trend from this, one can assume that around 40% of children of primary school age will already be using their own smartphone by 2020.

If one also makes the assumption that the proportion of children with their own smartphone in the first and second grades is still below average, one can already predict that more than half of third and fourth graders will have their own smartphone in 2020.

A prognosis for the larger group of 10 to 13 year olds is around 90%.

1.3 Graphic: This is how children and young people use the smartphone

Telephoning is still the top priority for young people when it comes to smartphone use - but listening to music as well as texting and chatting with friends is also very popular.

The children's media study goes even deeper into the communication channels:

»Children's Media Study - Communication Channels«

Of particular interest is the sharp increase in the use of text messaging after reading and writing skills are achieved.

Further studies show that text messages via WhatsApp are displacing traditional calls. This is shown above all by studies on the duration of use.

To avoid high mobile phone costs, parents should choose a tariff that is tailored to these usage habits. The current trend clearly shows that the data volume for text messages is more important than the classic flat-rate telephone.
Read more about which tariffs are suitable for children and young people here.

2. A separate cell phone for students

It is important to almost all parents to know where their children are right now. And many find it easier to let their children go alone if their child can be reached and can contact them at any time in an emergency. Here the cell phone offers additional security - for both parties. If the location search is activated in the smartphone settings, parents can even locate their child using GPS in an emergency. Read here how cell phone location works with the various operating systems.
Most children acquire the technical skills for using the cell phone surprisingly quickly. But having your own cell phone also requires responsible use of digital technology and the Internet. In addition, with the support of their parents, children can learn sensible usage behavior and develop an understanding of the value of their cell phones and how to deal with cell phone costs. Find out here what a mobile phone usage contract between parents and children could look like.
Self-employment / leisure planning
Children and young people can use their mobile phones to communicate easily. B. to meet. In addition, many sports groups and afternoon activities are now almost exclusively organized via WhatsApp. The smartphone makes it easier for them to spend their free time independently and can help children organize themselves independently in everyday life.
A cell phone, especially a smartphone, can cost several hundred euros. Younger children may not yet have an eye on the financial value of their cell phone - if the expensive cell phone is damaged or lost, it is doubly annoying. The costs for phone calls, internet use, messages and apps are also not easy to keep track of, depending on the contract. A transparent, flexible mobile phone tariff is recommended here. You can read more about suitable mobile phone tariffs for children and young people here.
Risk of excessive use
Smartphones with internet access are extremely appealing to children - apps, downloads, music streams and chats are all there. In order to avoid cell phone addiction or internet addiction, parents should absolutely define clear rules for using the cell phone and install age-appropriate youth protection filters. Mobile phone usage can also be controlled via the mobile phone tariff, for example with a prepaid tariff in which, after the credit has been used up, only calls and / or messages can be received or only slow internet is available.
Content that is not suitable for children
The Internet is big - and children can quickly get to pages that are not content for them. This can be violence or pornography, but also paid apps and games or sites that request the provision of personal data. In chat rooms or forums, which are used a lot by children, there is also a risk that personal images or data could fall into the wrong hands. Parents should always make the security settings themselves for children's mobile phones or - for Android devices - download the appropriate youth protection apps. Find out how to secure your child's cell phone here.

3. Parents checklist

My child knows the basic functions of a cell phone

Children should at least be able to read safely to use contact lists, short message services, and more. The first cell phone should have the same operating system as the parent's cell phone - then the probability is high that the child is already familiar with many of the device's functions. In addition, questions can be clarified more easily.

We have chosen an age-appropriate cell phone

For elementary school children it should be a cell phone that is not too big and has an impact and scratch-resistant protective cover. A used device from parents or friends is ideal as a first mobile phone - it is important that someone can help the child to learn to use the mobile phone. Here you can find out which smartphone is suitable for which age group.

We have found a suitable mobile phone tariff

A mobile phone tariff for children and young people should be flexible, transparent and, if possible, tailored to the usage habits of the children. The requirements of the parents - for example, the constant availability of their child by phone or WhatsApp - are an important criterion. A second SIM card in the parents' mobile phone contract is conceivable, but only with an activated third-party lock. A prepaid contract without a binding contract is also a good and usually very cheap tariff option for children.

My child understands that using a cell phone is costly

Data volumes or phone minutes are abstract units for children - your child should understand how mobile phone use works and that it may be limited. Discuss the chosen mobile phone tariff with your child and explain how the mobile phone costs are made up.

We have set clear usage agreements for the cell phone

Regardless of which mobile phone and which tariff option - it is important that there are clear agreements on the use of the mobile phone. Discuss the dangers of the Internet with your child and address specific cases such as cyber bullying or data security. You should make the security settings (youth protection filter, third-party lock, automatic data control) together with your child. (Link to Kinder_Schüler_Handy) Of course, the parents' accessibility requirements as well. For example, calls in the same network are free with some providers.