HOW young is too young for a child to have a mobile phone?
That was the question put to hundreds of parents in an online poll by charity Parentline Plus.
Most mums and dads felt children should not be given their first mobile until they were at least 11.
Some 47% felt children should wait until they were aged between 11 and 13 to get a phone.
And 27% of parents felt children should be at least 14 before getting the gadget.
But 26% were happy to buy their child a mobile when they were under 10.
Parentline Plus, which provides a 24-hour support service for parents, said that when to buy a phone was becoming a big issue for parents, with mobiles designed for children as young as four now coming on the market.
Lucy Edington, Parentline Plus chief executive, said: “Children today are really into gadgets.
“Mums and dads are bound to get pestered about buying their child his or her first phone.
“It’s important to resist pester power, but make a considered decision. If you feel your child is ready to have a mobile set sound rules to make sure you and your child get the most out of it.”
Parents gave a variety of reasons for buying their children mobiles. While some simply gave in to ‘pester power’ others felt more secure about giving their children independence if they knew they can contact them by mobile phone.
But the gadgets can cause problems. They can make children a target for thieves and features such as text message can provide bullies with new modes of torment, reaching children at home as well as in the classroom.
Cameras on phones can be used to take still images or video footage of children behaving badly, and these clips are often shared between children or even posted on the internet.
Howard Roberts, secretary of the Kirklees branch of the National Union of Teachers, said the main problem was low-level disruption caused in class, with children texting or sharing photos.
He added: “Most schools have a policy about whether children can bring phones in and when they can be switched on.
All we want children to bring to school is that which is relevant to their learning.
“We understand some parents are concerned and want to know their children can keep in touch. It is not an easy issue. But phones can be a bit of a nuisance.”
For more information or to get a guide on mobile use visit www.parentlineplus.org.uk or call free on 0808 800 2222.