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Buying the first smartphone for your child can be difficult as you need not only to pick the best device for them but also to teach them how to use it. And this doesn’t mean explaining how to use the tech itself so much as the rules of online safety. A smartphone is a must-have device in the modern world, so it’s much better to teach your child how to use it young so that they develop safe and healthy habits for later tech use.
When Should You Buy the First Smartphone to Your Child?
According to the World Health Organization’s guidelines on screen time for children, kids under five should have no more than an hour of it a day. This means there shouldn’t be any talk of buying a smartphone for your pre-schooler, no matter if they are asking for one before Christmas.
On average, children today get their first smartphone at 10, but this age seems to be going down with every year. If you want to teach your kids to use their devices responsibly, 10-12 would see ideal.
What to Equip Your Child’s Smartphone With?
You need to respect your child’s privacy and give them some independence in handling their smartphone. However, you definitely should use parental controls to monitor their behavior at the beginning. You may be able to reduce the level of control piecemeal if your kids can demonstrate that they are responsible and sensible.
Aside from using the device’s built-in parental control features, you should also install some specialized apps to help protect your children. These might include monitoring apps, GPS trackers, and an alarm app. Be sure to research how to keep your kids safe online so you can teach them the basic personal safety rules for using the Internet. While you are at it, you should discuss cyber-bullying and explain to your child how to avoid predators online.
Take note that you need not only to consider which parental control and security apps you should install but also which apps you should ban from the smartphone. This is when you’ll need to decide whether you want to be THAT parent who bans their kids from social media.
It’s generally inadvisable to ban social media outright as this could have the effect of turning your child to rebellion which could have much more serious consequences at a later time. But you definitely should monitor social media use. Note that social media apps allow making accounts private, which means only people approved by the account owner will be allowed to see the posts and interact with them. Use this feature to add another layer of protection for your children.
Other Safety Considerations for Your Kid’s First Smartphone
When teaching your children about smartphone use and online safety, you should also be mindful of threats that come other than via the Internet. Think about the physical safety of the device and teach your kids about situations when they shouldn’t use it in the open.
You should make sure that your child’s bags and jackets all have a special pocket for the smartphone. Explain to your child that carrying it around in hand or in an outer pocket where it is easy to notice will only end up with someone stealing their precious device.
You should also establish a protocol that kids will need to follow if their smartphone does get lost or stolen. If possible, provide them with another method to contact you. At the very least, your kids should carry a card with your name and contact number so they can reach you or ask some trusted adult for help. Be sure to explain the definition of a ‘trusted adult’.
How to Prevent Kids from Getting Addicted to Their Smart phones
You hear many negative comments about ‘smartphone addiction’ today, but the truth is that it’s not really an addiction. At least, the analysis of multiple studies on the subject published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions doesn’t consider it such. This is a problem of bad device use.
As the severity of the issue doesn’t qualify as an addiction, resolving this problem is much easier. All you need to do is to establish, and if necessary enforce, healthy device use rules. The main concern here is the amount of time the child can spend playing around with the device. Establish specific hours and time limits when this will be allowed.
It will be best to have your whole family follow the same rules. This will help make your kids more accepting and motivated to follow them.
About Kate Bregovic