If you've got kids, sooner or later, they're going to ask you for a phone. And these days, the chances are it's likely to be sooner.
According to Ofcom, more than four out of ten kids aged five to 15 now have a phone, with the average youngster getting their first at around age 11. Even if yours aren't yet among them, you can bet that once their friends start getting their own gadgets, you should get ready to feel their pester power, which is one of the strongest forces in the known universe (fact).
Eventually, the chances are you'll have to give in, no matter how much you'd like to keep such dangerous gadgets out of their hands until they're 18 and out of the house. But try and focus on the positives – like reminding them that you'll now be able to check up on them wherever they are at any time (something that's bound to dampen their enthusiasm a little bit).
We've come up with a few pointers that will hopefully help you make giving your kids their first phone as stress-free as possible.
The right handset
The natural response will be to find something as cheap and cheerful as possible – letting kids loose with something that costs hundreds of pounds is only ever going to end in tears. But this doesn't mean you'll have to stick them with a deeply uncool old-school device that can't do anything more than make calls.
Take a look at models such as Nokia's Asha range, for example. This has been built with younger users in mind and can be picked up for as little as £40 while still having the look and feel of a device like a BlackBerry. Alternatively, firms like Samsung and LG make great little budget gadgets that can offer full smartphone functionality for under £100.
The right deal
Keeping your kids' spending in check once they've got the phone is the next step, so try and avoid contracts that limit them to a certain number of calls and texts – you'll be amazed at how quickly they'll blow through this without even noticing and go straight into the realm of costly excessive use charges.
Pay-as-you-go options are the obvious solution for keeping your spending down and your blood pressure in check, as there'll be no unexpected bills to give you heart attacks. They may moan if they run out of money, but it's also a great way for them to learn about budgeting. As they get older, you can consider switching to a SIM-only rolling contract that you can easily cancel if they start to get out of hand.
Keeping them safe
Many of the biggest terrors for parents if they let their kids loose on even a budget smartphone will be the access to the internet this can offer. It can be tricky enough to keep an eye on kids' internet use on a desktop or laptop and so if they've got a private screen of their own, the task can be even harder.
That's why you need to put protections in place. Ask your chosen phone provider what tools they've got for filtering content – all the big operators have browsing policies and it's worth knowing what they are, so you can rest assured your kids aren't doing anything inappropriate the minute they get out of your sight.
Protecting the gadget
We all know kids can be careless and things around them often have a habit of mysteriously breaking without ever being touched, so getting your offspring a protective case that can absorb the everyday knocks and scrapes, or even protect the device from water damage, can be a great idea.
You can even get a case personalised with their favourite images on, so they've got a handset that's unique to them and stylish enough to show off to their friends in the playground.