How to save money with your kid’s fancy gadgets

Over 25% of children in the UK have access to or even own their own tablet or smart phone by the tender age of 8 years old. This includes the ever popular iPad and other lower range devices. Amazingly, according to the latest study, British parents are spending over £450 on gadgets for their children every single year. But It seems that there are many reasons that your kids don’t need fancy gadgets and can save you a lot of cash in the mean time.

The study claims that parents spent over £5 billion on electronic gadgets for under 18 year olds last year, with over half of that being dedicated to Christmas presents.

Scarily, around a third of parents questioned said that they would consider their kids to be addicted to gadgets.

For example, consumer groups reported last year that a free My Little Pony app game encouraged children to spend up to £69.99 a time on a virtual “Mountain of Gems”, and there have been reports of young children racking up charges totalling thousands of pounds in similar games.

Given the various pitfalls, we asked Ernest Doku, of uSwitch, for his top tips for parents of tech-hungry children.

Avoiding ‘in-app’ fees

“Parents really do need to keep tabs on what their children get up to online, and lay out some ground rules, or risk having to cover bills racked up by in-app purchases – particularly in seemingly ‘free-to-play’ games. These can usually be disabled or placed behind a PIN within your device’s ‘settings’ menu, ensuring that little ones can enjoy a tablet without causing a big financial headache.”

Insurance for children’s technology

“Many home insurers cover portable items like mobiles and tablets, and some current accounts from high street banks offer gadget insurance as a perk, but you often have to register each device, so call them to check as well as confirm and potential excess charges.

“Also look out for bulk-buy insurance deals which are offered by some gadget and home insurers – these give you discounts if you insure more devices. But be very clear when buying insurance that you want to cover your children’s tech and not your own.”

“Gadget insurers include Protect Your Bubble, which offers a family policy. HelpuCover.co.uk also offers cover for unlimited gadgets owned by members of your family living at your address for £14.99 a month.”

Sensible smartphone/phone tariffs

“If you got your child a shiny new handset for Christmas, opting for a Sim-only deal could be a good way of keeping monthly costs down. Virgin Media has unlimited minutes, texts and data for £15 a month.”

“If you’re looking at buying a new phone, getting a generous data limit could help unexpectedly higher bills. Mobile Phones Direct has 500 minutes and unlimited texts and data for £27 a month.

“Also consider capping the contract – where you can effectively stop bills spiralling out of control or signing them up to a pay-as-you-go deal could help keep a lid on your child’s spending. This is an especially useful trick for parents worried about their kid’s data-hungry smartphone. Also make sure that when they’re at home, your kids are browsing the web using your wireless connection instead of consuming data by connecting to the internet over 3G or 4G.”

It seems that there are so many compelling arguments against children spending so much time on electronic devices and many families may want to reconsider even allowing their kids to own one at all. This in itself could save a lot of money and teach the younger generation the value of non electronic activities.