Choosing a mobile phone
At a glance
- Things to consider when purchasing a mobile phone are its intended use, service provider and type of contract.
- Get to know the security features on the phone so if it is lost, you have the best chance of getting it back.
- Establish the ground rules of using the phone with your child.
- Keep communication open with your child so they are comfortable enough to report any issues.
What should you consider when choosing a mobile phone for your child?
- Decide what you want your child to use the phone for – if it's just to take calls, then there is no need to spend more to get a higher-end smartphone. Agree on the features needed with your child before you go shopping to avoid any pressure by sales staff.
- Check a few phone companies for
- Coverage – will that service provider have signal in your area?
- Offers available – what types of phones are available? Are they on a contract or pre-paid? What are the call costs and are there any other add-ons?
- Do you want to have a prepaid phone or go on a contract? Are you paying the bill or does your child have a job?
Pre-paid phones are generally the most popular for kids as they can't go over a pre-agreed limited on spending. If they spend the preset amount, the only calls that will work are to emergency services (000).
Contracts generally run for a set period and allow for set amounts on calls/texts/downloads, but then charge high excess charges once the limit is reached.
- What suits your child?
Are they responsible enough to manage their phone and the costs that go with it? Only people over 18 can legally sign a contract. Think carefully before agreeing to sign a contract for your child's phone, doing so is similar to giving them your credit card. You may be held liable for all the costs and any ongoing costs if the phone is lost, stolen or damaged.
What if my child's phone is lost or stolen?
Get to know the security features and locks on the mobile phone so that if it is lost, you have the best chance of getting it back or disabling the phone and not having to pay for someone else's calls.
If your handset is lost or stolen, you should immediately contact your service provider.
Ten top tips for parents with kids using mobile phones
- Establish the rules straight up – eg, "You can only use the mobile to call mum or dad if the bus is late or you are feeling worried."
- Add your numbers or any other numbers your child might need in an emergency to the favourites or speed dial. Explain how a reverse call works if they don't have credit and need to contact you.
- Confirm via the service provider's website how to block adult content and premium SMS services – this way there can be no inappropriate or costly access. If it isn't possible, talk to your child about these services and why they should steer clear of them. If the phone is a ‘hand-me-down', make sure the settings are changed to suit your child and any old information/photos are wiped.
- Remind your child that every call, SMS and look on the internet costs money! This is a great opportunity to teach your child about budgeting and credit.
- Stick to a pre-paid account to prevent any bill shocks.
- Make sure they don't let anyone borrow their phone.
- Let them know it's ok to tell you if they come across something that worries them or makes them uncomfortable.
- Advise them to never post their number or anyone else's on the internet. Show your child how to turn off location services when not specifically using them.
- If your child has rung up an excessive bill, contact your mobile phone provider to discuss it. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman may also be able to help.
- If your child receives an inappropriate call, teach them to hang up immediately.
If your child receives an inappropriate text message, make sure that they don't reply to the message but show it to a trusted adult.
Re-purposed content produced with permission from the Australian Communication and Media Authority Cybersmart website. For more practical mobile phone safety advice see the CyberSmart website.
This site uses Google Translate, a free language translation service, as an aid. Please note translation accuracy will vary across languages.