Published in El Pais, 12 March 2019.
It seems with every day passing by the average age kids receive their first cell phone is reduced. And by the time they are young, they are already experts. As parents often lend them their phones to play different games. I already discussed the problems with children unknowingly racking up bills on in app purchases. But there is another outlet that kids cannot knowingly spend their parent’s money and that is through overage usage.
In my home country every few months there seems to be a story of a parent outraged over a large phone bill caused by their children. The telephone provider would send warnings to the owner of the number (in this case the child) and would often be ignored. The result being the unpleasant surprise when your phone bill comes in the mail.
The response to the media by the parent is usually the same, “They are just children!”, “How are they supposed to know?”, “Why was my child notified and not me?” followed by a demand that the phone bill be lowered. Of course, the bill is never lowered and while I do sympathize with the parents I will have to agree with the phone company on this one. The details of your plan are well outlined before you sign up and it is up to the user to understand and comply.
The reason I feel this way is simple. When I got my first phone my parents gave me a long talk about the responsibilities that come with it, what is included in my plan, and what is not as well as the dangers of talking to much or making long distance calls. It sounds like in instances described above that talk was not held or at the very least not effective. The fact is a cell phone is a huge responsibility, something that many parents seem to not understand, and giving one to a child should not be taken lightly. All children should be fully explained about what does and does not cost money before they are given free range and if they are at an age where they do not understand, then, they are simply too young for a phone.
I know its hard to take the side of a large phone company, but we must take responsibility for our children’s mistakes. If you do not feel they understand, then the best thing to do is wait before handing over your old phone to them. It will not be the end of the world if they have to wait a couple more years until they are fully prepared to understand the responsibilities of owning a call phone.