What parents need to know before letting kids use a smartphone

Cristina POPOV

January 20, 2020

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What parents need to know before letting kids use a smartphone

There comes a moment in any parents’ life when, after intensive begging and pleas, they take the plunge and buy their child his /her first smartphone.

If you are experiencing this, you are not alone. 53% of kids have their own smartphone by the time they are 11, and 69% have one at the age of 12. The number of 8-year-olds with phones grew to 19% in 2019 from 11% in 2015, reveals the Common Sense Media’s latest research, “Tweens, Teens, and Phones.” (Please note that, although the recommended age for a child’s first mobile is around 11, only you can judge whether the child is ready for one.)

Soon after the smartphone comes social media, apps and games. How can you possibly keep children safe amid the dangers of the online world?

Here are some tips to consider:

Talk about the apps they want to use, why and how

Each social media platform comes with its own features and challenges. For example, MeetMe and Yubo pose more risks than others. Do a little research and talk to your children about the asociated dangers. To help you, we highlight the ups and downs of the most popular apps in the Family section of our blog:

We know it is hard to keep up with every hot new app, but it might help if you decide to point out which actions are not safe in general, including interactions with strangers, cyberbullying, responding to requests from unknown or anonymous people, and viewing inappropriate content.

Set the rules on what to do and what not to. Repeat the talks about cyber safety. It might help to go together through a series of hypothetical situations and discuss the best options they have, so they are prepared, just in case.

For example:

What if one of your friends posts a nude picture/ video?

What if you receive a lot of negative comments on something you posted?

What if someone posts something about you to make you feel embarrassed or ashamed?

What if someone is mean or stalks you online?

Turn on the privacy settings of the smartphone or app

Have a look together at the privacy settings of their favorite apps, who can see their posts, who can friend/contact them, and edit them to be as safe as possible.

Keep them safe

Parenting in the smartphone age can be scary, but there are plenty of resources to help you. A parental control solution installed on your child’s device, especially when s/he is just starting to use it, will allow you to set up reasonable screen time and restrictions on content, strangers and violent language. This will help your child develop responsible behavior, and let you worry less.

Even so, your relationship with your kid is going to be the most powerful tool you have in keeping them protected. Encourage your child to come directly to you if something happens or s/he is uncertain, stressed or embarrassed by anything happing online. Same as offline.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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