Why I allow my kids to take their mobile phones to school & how to keep them safe

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details. 

Harry turned 11 last week and was over the moon with his first proper mobile phone. Honestly, I have no idea where the time goes. It feels like it was just yesterday that he relied on me for everything and now he's at the age where he is starting to gain a little more independence. I have never been the type of parent to wrap my children up in cotton wool and do try and give them freedom where possible (and within reason). This summer Harry and Heidi made their first solo trip to Aldi with instructions to 'buy something for lunch'. It did make me giggle when they returned with a loaf of bread and a raw chicken to make chicken sandwiches. They did survive though and definitely gained from the experience. Harry will now occasionally stay at home by himself when I pop to the shops or my mam's house and he loves being trusted enough to do this.

I also applied for Harry's High School place last week and we have our first meeting there next week. Our local High School is a 1.5 mile and 30-minute walk from our house and in the opposite direction to his younger siblings' school. Harry will be mostly walking with his friends which I'm not too concerned about but I do have some niggles I'll be discussing with the Pastoral team at his new school next week.

The official word from Harry's new school is that mobile phones are not allowed. I can see their reasoning behind this and after watching TV shows like Educating Manchester, I can definitely understand how they'd disrupt lessons. If children are caught using a mobile phone during school hours they are confiscated and taken to the school office where children can collect them at the end of the day and as a parent, I fully support this. I didn't even own a mobile phone when I went to school and survived to tell the tale but I do think that if new technologies are available to us, we should use them and that's why I'll be allowing Harry to take his mobile phone to High School next year - as long as he promises it stays in his bag until home time. I like the extra reassurance a mobile phone offers - if he's going to be late home or wants to pop to a friends house or a friends house after school he can simply send a quick text and stop us from any unnecessary worry.

'A survey of almost 1000 children across 29 countries found that most children had their own mobile phone from age 9' - New York Times

I will allow Harry to take his mobile phone to High School but I still have concerns:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Harry watching unsuitable content
  • Easy access to Social Media before he's ready
  • Mobile phone theft 
  • Inappropriate contact from strangers
  • Mobile phone addiction

Allowing your children to take a mobile phone to school does open a can of worms. My first worry is Cyberbullying. The best way to combat this I think is to have open and honest discussions both with your children, their friends, other parents and the school. We have set Harry super clear ground rules to follow and he knows the consequences if he doesn't.

Harry is growing up and I know that he is probably going to stumble upon (or even search for) unsuitable content on the internet at some point. As parents, we can install family security software such as Kaspersky to devices. Kaspersky can be installed on multiple devices and can be set up to alert parents when a page has been opened that is potentially unsuitable. It also records a child's search history and warns parents if a child tries to disable the app. As Harry grows older and is aged 16+ I will probably offer him more privacy but while he is still a child, I definitely feel more comfortable having this extra peace of mind and being able to monitor what he is looking at online.

'Children are in danger of seeing social media like sweeties and their online time like junk food' - Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield

Most Social Media sites state that you must be aged at least 13+ to sign up. After walking to school with other children though, I know in practice that this is not the case. Harry does have his own Twitter and YouTube account and it's something that both Steve and I monitor and have the password to. I don't feel comfortable with him having his own Instagram or Facebook account yet and will probably wait until the recommended age of 13 before allowing him to sign up to those sites. The government has published official advice on how to deal with children using Social Media here. 

Mobile phone theft is a real worry to me. I would obviously be upset if I spent hundreds of pounds on Harry's phone only for it to be stolen but I'd also be worried about the impact it would have on Harry himself along with the access anyone would have personal bank details and passwords. Almost half a million Brits had their phone stolen in 2016 but there are measures you can take to ensure your children aren't part of this statistic:
  • Ensure your children uses a pin code and does not leave their phone lying around in a public place
  • Use security such as Kaspersky software to keep passwords safe 
  • Don't buy expensive and top of the range phones which are more lucrative to thieves
  • Use a tracking device on phones

Inappropriate contact from strangers is probably most parents' worst fear. The NSPCC has released lots of very good advice on how to keep your children safe online and their website includes a couple of games you can use together with your children to help educate them on the importance of online safety. You can set up parental controls and sign up to a parent e-safety course too.

'Children as young as 13 are attending 'smartphone rehab' as concerns grow over screen time' - The Independent 

Finally, mobile addiction is a real thing. In fact, I'm sure I've fallen foul to it myself. Harry is still only 11 and I really don't want him to spend his life through his mobile phone screen. We have an 'after school routine' pinned to our fridge that specifies when our three can play online. It's a set time each day and they do manage to stick to this. You can also set up parental controls to stop children spending too long online and of course plan lots of other activities such as Forest School, woodland walks and local days out. I hope when Harry walks home from school he still gets to ride his bike, chat and fool around with friends and even run home in a storm just like I did when I was a child and hope he isn't going to have his head stuck in his phone the whole time. 

Harry's happy face when he received a new mobile phone for his birthday this year

Children taking their mobile phone to school is considered 'the norm' these days and personally, I still think the benefits outweigh the risks but as parents it's super important for us to be aware of the risks involved with allowing children potential unsupervised time online and for us to stay open, honest and vigilant with the whole family. 

Over the next few months in preparation for Harry joining High School next year, we'll be utilising all of the research suggested by the NSPCC and the Government in this article and getting to grips with security software such as Kaspersky too. I think it's important to remember though that even with your best efforts, there are still always going to be risks. Remember to update security software and updates as soon as possible, create an online contract with your children and talk regularly about the risks.

Do you allow your children to take their mobile phone to school? How have you minimised the risks? I'd love to hear your thoughts.



  1. Imogen takes her phone to school and she is in year 5 (but middle school so kinda has to grow up quicker) she turns it off and pops in her bag. As we live a good 15 minute drive from the school...that's another story...thanks Newcastle council! it's great to get in touch with her after school. the other night I was stuck in traffic on jubilee road so she phoned to see where i was!

  2. While I was training to be a teacher I found mobile phones were the cause of so many problems, but mainly out of classroom problems. In all honestly, I don't think I had any problems in the classroom with the younger pupils using phones, and they actually come in handy for resssrch for homework etc. Not every household has a laptop so being able to do homework on a mobile phone is great.

    I completely agree with all of your worries though - but I think you're doing all the right things to prevent anything negative happening!

    1. That's what worries me - you hear so many stories of bullying, videos ect.... it's scary!

      Oh I never thought about the whole homework aspect x

  3. James is already asking for a phone n he's 5! It turns out some of his pals have them already! He won't be getting one till he is going to secondary school as I won't be home when he finishes as I will be getting Freddie from primary school.

    1. LOL they are definitely starting young! I must admit my three get our old cast offs (sim free) to play games on but that's it.

  4. its so scary isn't it all that goes on online but phones are also lifelines and security. I got Joe one when he started high school and it has a tracker on it so I know he is safe and the phone can be tracked if needed. x


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