When is my child ready for their first phone? brought to you by Westnet

Technology changes fast. Twenty years ago, only a handful of adults had a mobile phone – but two decades is the digital time equivalent of the Jurassic age and modern day. Trying to explain dialup to a pre-teen will elicit the same wild-eyed bewilderment as “a stegosaurus was as big as this house”.

So, that leaves parents in 2020 with a conundrum: when do I give my child their first phone? Is it a question of them reaching a certain age, or is it a case of them showing a level of maturity? We can’t go off what our parents did because two tin cans connected by string isn’t really the same.

Like most aspects of parenting, there are no hard-and-fast rules for when a child is ready for the responsibility of a mobile – but that doesn’t mean you’re without help. We’ve scouted the web to bring you a step-by-step manual for solving this digital dilemma.

Step 1: Is your child ready?

Understanding when a child is ready for a mobile phone is a mix of factors, including your child’s level of responsibility and whether their friends have got one. Raising Children Australia is a great resource for working out whether your child should have a phone, offering thought-provoking prompts like:

  • Is your child responsible in other ways? For example, does your child look after their belongings?
  • Does your child talk to you about things that worry them?
  • Does your child understand about not giving strangers their phone number, not clicking on internet links, and blocking calls from people they don’t know or don’t want to speak to?
  • Does your child feel excluded from conversations and events with friends because they’re the only one without a mobile phone

Step 2: Understand the pros and cons


  • Emergencies – You’ll provide them with a tool for contacting you or another trusted adult quickly if they ever feel unsafe.
  • Connection – The ability to communicate with their friends outside of school and keep up with current events and media.
  • A lesson in responsibility – This could be an opportunity to teach your child about looking after their things.


  • Cyberbullying – A phone may unfortunately open another route of communication to bullies.
  • Distraction – A 2018 study reported that people check their phones every 12 minutes during their waking hours. Making rules about your child’s usage is a good way to help them avoid developing negative habits.
  • Unrestricted access to the internet – It’s easy to take a wrong turn online and, while there is software available to provide parental controls, there’s a possibility your child will be presented with inappropriate content.

Step 3: Talking to your child

If you’ve decided your child could use a mobile phone, it’s important to think about how you can help them use it responsibly. Sit down with them and set rules about usage, like how much time they are allowed for social media each day and when they need to put their phone away. Again, Raising Children Australia has a useful article on just what responsible mobile phone use is – we recommend you give it a read.

Step 4: Choosing the right first phone

  • Affordability: Mobiles can be expensive, and kids can be…. less than careful. Thankfully, there are many phones in the market that tick the boxes for as little as $89. All the phones we’ve listed here are under $600, with the more costly devices recommend for older, more responsible teens.
  • Durability: Accidents happen to the best of us, so there’s a good chance your kid’s device will eventually end up dropped, scratched, or wet. Consider purchasing a phone case and screen protector to add an extra layer of security.
  • Payment: It’s generally recommended that you start with a prepaid plan that gives you a set amount of phone calls, texts, and data per month. This will help prevent your child from overusing their phone and going over the monthly limit.

Best mobiles for kids: Our handset recommendations

First-ever phone: Nokia3310


$89 from JB Hi-Fi

Why it’s good: Are you nostalgic, because we are. This little pocket rocket retro mobile allows kids to talk, text, play snake… and that’s about it. While it can connect to the internet, the experience is understandably basic, which may be ideal for younger children.

First-ever phone: Opel Mobile SmartFlip


$179 from JB Hi-Fi

Why it’s good: Flip phones still exist – who knew! The Opel Smartflip is slim and affordable, with big buttons and just the right amount of internet capability (popular messaging platform WhatsApp comes pre-installed). It’s durable, too – so you don’t have to worry about it being damaged easily.

First smartphone: VIVO Y12


$199 from JB Hi-Fi

Why it’s good: A great starter smartphone with a good quality rear camera and long battery life. While the hue of a handset doesn’t impact on its function, we have no doubt that it’s beautiful blue colour will bring a big smile to a small face.

First smartphone: Motorola G9 Play 64GB


$299 from JB Hi-Fi

Why it’s good: The perfect mobile for aspiring musos, with wireless Moto Buds included in the box. It’s also water repellent (a.k.a worry-proof) and has been described as “a good all-round Android budget phone” by Finder.

For older teens: Google Pixel 4a


$599 from Google Store

Why it’s good: Google have a great reputation in the smartphone market and, looking at the Google Pixel 4a, it’s not hard to see why. Small, light and packed with all the latest features – including Google Assistant – this phone has everything a teen needs.

For older teens: Samsung Galaxy A51


$599 from Samsung

Why it’s good: Creative kids will love the quad camera, which shoots smooth and steady just like the pros (minus the price tag of top-tier gear). As the world’s no.1 bestselling Android smartphone, you know you are getting a good deal.

Image credits


  1. Ron says:

    Presumably Apple did not qualify on price.

    Could you do the same article on phones for the savvy 80yo, who uses an iPad and IOS 14 for everything but phoning. Can this be added to a Westnet plan ?

  2. Robert says:

    I would like to agree with Ron’s comments but go a stage further to include more from the apple orchard ie, include an iPhone SE version 2.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can you recommend a mobile that will download the nsw device centre qr code app that is easy for non tech savy seniors to use?