Increasingly, the age that kids are getting smartphones is becoming younger and younger. Of course, this has many benefits including them being able to easily get in contact with a parent in an emergency. However, there are also many risks related to smartphone use for kids. A topic you can read all about, and get some advice on below.
The main dangers that parents need to be mindful of when providing their child with a smartphone include how their child is behaving online, and whether they are consuming age-appropriate material. Also, the people with whom they are having contact and friending is important.
These issues are often characterised as the three Cs of conduct, content and contact and they can be an excellent starting place for a discussion between parents and children on how to use their smartphone correctly.
Specific smartphone safety tips
Personal information and privacy
One of the most important aspects of smartphone safety for kids is to make sure they understand how to protect their personal information and privacy. Such information usually includes their full name, phone number, home address, and even email address. It's also a smart idea to talk to your kids about not sharing pictures online with people that they have never met and to make sure they know to alert an adult immediately if a stranger is asking to meet up in real life.
As well as making sure your children understand they shouldn’t share such information with a stranger, it is also important to educate them not to post such information online on their social media accounts as well. In particular, tagging or signing into locations should be done with caution, as should posting about a location they will be in the future.
The sad truth of smartphones is that they can make bullying or being bullied so much more likely. This is for two reasons: the first is that people will often say things online that they would never dream of saying in real life. While the second is that because your child will have their phone with them for most of the day, there is no respite if they are being bullied, even when they get home.
The good news is that there is much more awareness about cyberbullying and support out there for those that are victims of it. Make sure your child knows they can come to you if anyone is bullying them via text or social media.
Also, be sure to discuss the appropriate way your child should behave with others online. Additionally, highlighting the damage that they could do by bullying someone else is also very important here. Indeed, by looking at this problem from both sides, we have the best chance of stamping it out.
Encourage no-phone time
Yes, it can be tough as an adult not being glued to our phones every minute of the day. However, it is essential to encourage specific times when your kids don't have access to their phones so that they can focus on what is going on around them. Set some specific periods in the day when they don't get to use their phones. An hour before bed, all the way through to after they have had their breakfast in the morning is a good start. Family mealtimes are also a wise option, although you will also have to abide by these rules if you want your kids to follow them!
You may even wish to go down the route of using tech time vouchers. That is your child is rewarded for good deeds with access to their device.
Often, the most worrying way kids can misuse their smartphones is to engage in behaviour like sexting. This is when they send inappropriate messages or pictures, which at best can be very embarrassing, and at worst land them in very serious trouble.
Of course, it's not easy to have a conversation about this with your child, however, if they are old enough to have a phone, then they need to be educated on the correct way to use it. Otherwise, their safety will be placed at risk.
Smartphones safety-enhancing tactics
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do as a parent to enhance the safety of your child’s smartphone use. The first of these is to talk about how other children are using their phones and whether they are appropriate or not.
It is also possible to help keep your child safe when using a smartphone in other ways. For example, you may wish to use the parental settings your service provider offers to monitor the apps, and limit the usage of the phone.
You can even find information online on specific apps that will allow you to monitor and control your child’s phone more closely. In fact, with such apps, you will be able to track their current locations, monitor their photos, and even lock and unlock their device.
Watch out for wifi
Finally, a word of warning: when using parental settings do remember that they may not be effective when using public WIFI. Something you may wish to bear in mind to protect your child’s safety.
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