There is a terrible dichotomy we face as parents of this time, we know technology is there and social media seems to be here to stay. Do we embrace it with our children or do we hide it from them for as long as possible? I’ve done both approaches, or rather I’m trying both ways. With my 8 year old son, he was about 2 or 3 when he started playing angry birds on my phone, then swiftly progressed to Minecraft pocket edition and he had his own tablet at age 4. He now is heavily ensconced in tech, he plays on the laptop, Xbox and any smart phone he can. He’s already asked me for a smartphone for when he walks to school on his own so he can call me. I’m torn, because I walked to school with my brother at age 9, further than he would have to and without a mobile phone! But I feel he’s too young to walk to school on his own, plus I would be walking with Phoebe anyway, it seems a bit pointless.
On the flip side, with Daniel (nearly 3) I’ve actively discouraged him from using a tablet or a phone. He watches TV, and knows how to swipe photos and press buttons on a tablet and phone but I don’t let him have one to play on. I don’t like seeing very young children being sat in buggies and given iPads to play with. I’m all for parents having a break and I’m by no means perfect, I have TV on pretty constantly at home even as background noise, but I’m glad I’ve done it this way round with Daniel. He’ll have plenty of time when he’s older.
Onto William, and a couple of days after talking about the possibility of him having a phone (I wasn’t convinced), Monqi got in touch. It seems to hold the answer to many parent’s fears about their child having access to the internet, messenger and calls by themselves. There are parent controls of course you can put onto any phone, but Monqi offers something a little different. It’s all controlled via an app on the parent’s phone. The children get a feeling of independence, they have all the apps they want and can text and call. If you’re thinking about buying your child a smart phone for Christmas, definitely consider the Monqi phone.
What we thought about the Monqi phone
It looks great, it’s a smart looking android 6.0 phone with a forward and rear facing 13MP camera and 5″ HD display. You get up to 7 hours talk time, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, plus a 1.5 GHZ quad core processor with 8GB ROM and 1GB RAM and up to 32GB micro SD. The parent controls cannot be turned off or deleted, and everything is controlled on my phone. I have a map on my app that shows where he is – at the moment he doesn’t go out by himself, but he wants to, and this may give me a bit of peace of mind when he does. You can also utilise geofencing, where you set a boundary for your child, and you get notified if they leave it. It all sounds a bit big brother like but as a parent, I think it’s great! The only down side I can see is that if you have an older child who may be a bit sneaky with leaving the phone at a friend’s house whilst they go out of bounds. Maybe they wouldn’t do that if they wanted to take the phone with them?
The Monqi Jungle store contains access to 150 free apps with no in app purchasing, as well as access to the Google play store if you allow it. You have to manually approve each app download, and you get notifications whenever they use the phone and what app they’ve used. You can then set individual app time limitations or a time limit on the phone. At first I just added 15 minutes on each app but he got frustrated with that, so together we decided on 2 hours per day in total and I left all the apps on free usage. This caused a mini meltdown on the first day, as he’d already been on it for longer so they immediately all greyed out! I reminded him we’d agreed the 2 hours was reasonable and he now gets it. He loves sending me messages, and I’ve set his contacts so I know who he’s messaging. The parent also controls what contacts he adds. You have the option to remotely lock the phone too.
William loves it, he feels very grown up. I really like the control I have over it and it’s quite nice getting messages from him even though he’s in the house. I’ve allowed him to download YouTube, and he loves being able to watch videos on his phone around the house. I’m impressed with the level of controls, you can even schedule in screen free times like meal times and before bedtime. We have those rules in place anyway, but it’s good to have the control options.
At the moment the Monqi phone is exclusive to Carphone Warehouse, SIM free at a cost of £149.99 or on a £10.99 a month plan. I went for a pay as you go SIM, and he uses the Wi-Fi at home. I’ve told him not to access online apps outside the home otherwise the data will get used up.
On the whole a great starter phone for kids in that phase where they want some independence and their own phone, but with that extra level of control for you to feel secure and happy for them to have it. It’s also the only smart phone to be Mumsnet rated, meaning it has undergone testing by a panel of real parents and children who have recommended it to other mums. And me.
Disclosure: we were gifted the phone and SIM card for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.