Seeing a young child completely engrossed by a mobile phone is becoming an increasingly common sight. Online price comparison outfit, uSwitch, claim that on average in the UK, youngsters are getting their first handset aged eleven. For many parents, there is a security in knowing their children can contact them in an emergency.
As one mother explained:“Usually when you don’t see your children in front of you for whatever reason, there used to be that one minute, two minute panic mode where you’d be frantically looking for them. Now it’s cut down to like five seconds because I reach for my phone and just call them.”
But can you be too young to own a phone? uSwitch surveys show even the very young are getting mobiles, and as Ernest Doku explains, they think its problematic: “Even children as young as five are finding out in the playground that if they haven’t got the latest and greatest smart phone, or the handset that has access to the widest variety of apps, they might kind of fall short in the playground pecking order.”
But there are other things to consider besides school-ground popularity. With no restrictions, children could access adult sites at the touch of a screen.
This encouraged Tom Sunderland to design a more child-friendly device. Showcasing his wares, Sunderland explains why and how they can change the situation for parents: “These handsets just make voice calls. There’s no screen and there’s no conventional keypad, so for instance you can’t access the internet, you can’t text, and problems like inappropriate access to websites, sexting, bullying by texting, those issues completely go away because the phone just makes calls.”
Perhaps this will be the answer to this most modern of ironies – how to use mobile phones to protect your child, without putting them in danger. As the 1,420 conflicted parents who took part in this study can testify, the debates goes on.