The age at which your child should have their first smartphone is one of much debate, and it’s almost impossible to pin down the right age to give them a phone. Some kids will have had one since primary school or younger, while others will be in their teens before they are trusted with a smartphone.
There are many aspects of smartphone ownership that parents will need to consider, such as screen time, internet safety, and social media among others, even for kids who have had access to smart devices and tablets since they were toddlers.
If you’re thinking of giving your child a smartphone, here are some things to think about.
The right age
The right ages for your child to have a smartphone is entirely up to you because you’re the one who knows your child the best. Consider how tech-savvy your child is, how well they understand and handle money, and how well they look after their belongings, as well as how well they adhere to any other limits imposed by you.
What features should they use?
Before buying a phone, take into account your child’s maturity and age, as it is important to buy the right smartphone for them. If you aren’t comfortable allowing full access to the internet, then look for a phone that will allow you to enable parental controls.
Set expectations of privacy
To begin with, it is wise to monitor your child’s smartphone use and to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to privacy. This doesn’t mean you’re spying on your child through.
It could be an idea to ensure you always know your child’s phone’s passcode so you can look at their phone at any time, even if you never do, or perhaps have veto power over any social media posts as they learnt how to navigate the internet safely.
Begin with boundaries
When you discuss smartphone ownership with your child, it is important to set out rules and boundaries, as well as the consequences of breaking them. When are they allowed to use the phone, and is there a time limit they must stick to? What about apps, are some off-limits? Or are they other conditions, such as household chores or homework, before they can use the phone?
Keep an eye out for cyberbullying
According to the Cyberbullying Research Centre, one out of four teens have experienced cyberbullying. Keep an eye out for signs that your child is being bullied online, such as nervous behaviour, anxiety or depression, wanting to avoid going to school, or being suddenly secretive about what is on their phone.
Have an open conversation about internet safety
For the generations that have grown up with access to the internet, they have likely had internet safety rules drilled into them, but never assume that anything is common sense once you hand a smartphone to your child. Have retailer refreshers on what is or isn’t safe on the internet, especially when it comes to sharing personal information.
If in doubt…
Without a doubt, you will be your child’s hero for giving them a smartphone, but it’s not as easy to take it back if you change your mind or feel it’s too early. If you’re on the fence about giving your child a smartphone, there’s nothing wrong with waiting a little longer!
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