Parents divided over phone safety issues for youngsters
A MOBILE phone may seem like the ideal solution for worried parents to keep in contact with their children, but do the dangers outweigh the benefits?
Parents in Sevenoaks are divided over the age at which a child becomes old enough to look after a mobile phone.
Figures provided by the parent support network Mumsnet, show that 52 per cent of nine-year-olds and 95 per cent of 15-year-olds have a mobile phone.
Blackberrys and iPhones – which can access the internet – are a particular favourite amongst youngsters.
Paul Clark, from Biggin Hill, who used to teach at the old Wildernesse School, believes peer pressure lies behind the desperation.
The father-of-one said: "Smartphones are handheld computers and their use as a telephone is often a small percentage of their use.
"Mobile phones can be just that – a telephone only.
"A mobile phone for a child is more acceptable than a smartphone for the purpose of safety, but then the power of peer pressure, advertising and being able to interact with your friends through Twitter and Facebook come into play."
A common fear is that children with smartphones will be exposed to chatroom paedophiles posing as friends.
Natasha Crist of Watercress close, Sevenoaks, said: "School children should have mobiles so they can be contacted by their parents. They should only have the basic phone though, not smart phones.
"We have all heard of children gaining access to unsuitable internet sites on them and being contacted by unscrupulous people."
Rachel Chard, of High Street, Sevenoaks, is a mother of four and thinks that children do not realise the risks.
She said: "It concerns me that my 13-year-old can use the internet on his iPhone without me knowing what he's doing and my 15-year-old daughter has a Blackberry and BBMs (uses instant messenging) constantly.
"I think BBM could lead to bullying because it is so quick to do and you can't fully explain yourself in the small space, so it could cause arguments."
Mumsnet has provided a checklist for parents wanting to make sure their children are using mobile phones safely.
They advise checking whether the phone has internet access and whether Bluetooth is enabled, which will allow nearby strangers to send a message to a child.
For more information about phone safety visit www.childnet-int.org or www.mumsnet.com/internet-safety/mobile-phones