Although Emmy is only 7 and a half she is desperate for her own mobile phone – that is NOT happening for many many years that’s for sure. This is spurred on by having teenaged cousins who she see’s using theirs ALL the time.
Times certainly have changed, I didn’t have a mobile as a child, they just were around then. I remember my Dad getting his first and it was a brick in comparison to todays pocket-sized versions and they certainly weren’t internet ready or even equipped with cameras back then. I was 18 when I got mine, and had it as a birthday present so I could call my parents, the police or emergency services should I need to – I had not long been driving at that point and it was a means to call out if I needed to.
Phones have certainly come a very long way since then and are now so much more advanced.
When your child has a phone is up to you as their parent, I am not here to say what that correct age is – I know some 10 year olds have them as they walk to and from school, while other families have no need for this.
What is important however is ensuring your child is safe while using them, knows the limits and being sensible.
A few things to remember and to make sure your child knows are:
- To know when they are allowed to use their phones – set a shut off time for school children, as you possibly would with other devices. No technology after 9pm for example
- To know they aren’t allowed to use them in school time. Most schools have the no mobile phone rule, it’s not to say the kids aren’t allowed them off in their bags or lockers but they won’t be allowed on in the classroom
- Not to give out their phone number to everyone – they can let their friends have it but not the person you’ve just met, people they don’t know or someone who’s befriended them in a chat room
- Teach them about mobile data – perhaps turn it off so they aren’t running up huge bills which they (or you) then can’t pay. They can connect up to the home Wi-Fi or friends/family when indoors but they don’t have to be connected to the internet all of the time
- Phones aren’t toys – they need to know that some calls cost money, so not to call those or have a list of numbers they are allowed to call. Many contracts come with free calls to landlines or mobiles but not all
- Make them aware that sending pictures cost money too
- Teach them internet safety – which sites they are allowed to look up and make them aware that some searches may provide search results they aren’t expecting. Browser internet filtering is a good thing to consider for this.
- Know the rules on social media – make sure they know not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know, and not give people they don’t know their home address etc.
- Know that not everyone is who they seem in chat rooms/forums. That sending rude pictures isn’t allowed. Make them aware of screenshots and when they think messages can’t be seen by others that actually they could be – make sure they know not to do anything they aren’t comfortable with and to know they must always tell you should they receive messages from others which are mean/hurtful/unwelcome or from people they don’t know.
- Ensure they have a passcode on their phones (one you know but not their friends) – the last thing they want are their friends fraping them on Facebook, or sending messages pretending to be them.
- Have chats about appropriate things being posted on social media, how things they do online can’t easily be erased, teach them about their digital footprint etc.
As parents we need to be aware of what our children are doing online, what they are looking up, and who they associate with especially when they are at school where we cannot monitor them. You can set parental controls on most devices including phones, this article from the NSPCC helps to understand ways you can help safeguard your child online and keep them safe.
Depending on your child’s age you could have a rule where you are allowed to check their phone daily perhaps to help keep them safe.
A good adaptive mobile security app I have discovered is Kaspersky Security Cloud. This helps give protection to the whole family while online, whether that be on social media, banking online or downloading. It also protects against viruses, Trojans, worms, phishing and much more. It automatically alerts to new threats and can be used on multiple devices making connecting to public Wi-Fi safer.
Like all apps of course it needs keeping up to date, but I always make sure I install updates on all devices when available anyway. Other things you may want to consider are turning on the find my phone options on your children’s mobiles – this can be used to find their phones should they be lost or stolen but they can also be used to know where your child is by using the GPS.
At what age did your child have their first mobile or at what age do you think they should be allowed one?