Friday, February 09, 2018

A Parents Guide To Smartphone Safety For Kids ♥

I keep seeing debates amongst my fellow mothers and parenting bloggers about what the right age for a child to own a phone is. Back in my day (how old do I sound with that statement by the way?!), a phone was something which you got when you turned twelve and were just a few months shy of starting secondary school.

Nowadays though, I've heard instances of children as young as five having a smartphone and honestly, with my son just about to turn five next week, I can't even imagine him owning his own smartphone, let alone wanting to give him one.

No matter what age you think is appropriate to give your child their own phone - I'm not here to judge, I completely understand the need for parents to be in contact with their children in this fast-paced and quite dangerous world, I think one thing that all parents need to be aware of is smartphone safety for kids.

A smartphone is essentially a device that can be used to connect with anyone in the world, and in the hands of a child I think that's quite a scary thought. A recent study by Cyber Safe Ireland found that half of children in third class are on social media and that a whopping 67% of 8-13 year olds have smartphones.

So with this in mind, here's a parents guide to smartphone safety for kids:

Parental restrictions - smartphones such as iPhones have a 'parental restrictions' setting, which is great for parents to control what their child is using, downloading or viewing with their phone. It even allows you to control the camera, FaceTime and Siri. Parental restrictions are only accessible via a passcode too, so it's a perfect and simple measure to take in protecting your kids whilst they're using a smartphone.

Check the privacy settings - letting your children know how important it is to keep their personal information private online is an absolute must, but parents can also go a step further by making sure privacy setting are turned on one their children's smartphones. Turn off location settings to keep your children safe when out and about with friends too.

Assure them that they can talk to you at any time - a worrying 35% of children, according to the study by Cyber Safe Ireland had never or rarely spoken to a parent about online safety. By discussing online safety on a regular basis, it'll be become a comfortable and approachable subject for your children to discuss with you - this is so important should they encounter a problem online such as online bullying, strangers contacting them, etc.

Phone-free times - this was something my own mother did with me and although I hated it at the time, I can really see the benefits of it now, especially with the evolution of smartphones (I only ever used my phone as a teenager to text). My mother used to take my phone at 9 at night until I was going to school in the morning. You could consider making certain times, such as dinner time, homework time, etc. phone-free times, allowing your child to not only have a break from their smartphone, but allow them communicate and concentrate fully on the other things they're doing.

Check how your child is using their phone - this may seem like an invasion of privacy, but honestly, as a parent, I think it's so important to know what your child is doing so you can keep an eye out for unacceptable behaviour - not just from them, but from the people they're encountering whilst using their phone too. Also, by checking their phone you can see what apps are downloaded and look up how best to protect them whilst using these apps. This guide from TigerMobiles.com has some useful tips for monitoring and restricting some of the more popular social media apps.

Restrict in-app purchases - almost every app these days has in-app purchases as a feature. It's so important to turn this off if your app account is linked with your credit or debit card. If you're children are fond of gaming or using apps on their smartphone then they may be able to purchases additional features without your permission. Making sure that the in-app purchases feature is turned off is essential if your kids are using a smartphone.

Make sure your child's phone is secure - another potential aspect to your child having a smartphone is the reality that it may get stolen or taken from their bag, etc. Setting up your child's phone with an app such as 'Find my iPhone' or 'Find my Android' is a great thing to do in case it ever does go missing. Also, setting up tracking and data-erasing apps such as Android Device Manager and iCloud are highly recommended too for keeping your children's information secure if their phone ever does get lost or stolen.

Teach your kids what is appropriate to share - we now live in a world where children are growing up faster than before and are are unfortunately exposed to all sorts of things from a very young age. Teaching your children what is appropriate to share via their phone is so important and will help them to keep themselves out of danger, trouble and any future embarrassment too.

I'll be trying to keep my son phone-free for as long as possible - right now he's only allowed to watch Fireman Sam on my phone, but when his time comes I'll be making sure I put all the above advice into action.

What do you think is the right age for a child to have a smartphone?
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