Many parents ask for guidance on when they should give their child(ren) their first smartphone (or tablet). Unfortunately there isn’t an answer aside from ‘it depends.’ While we know that children are being introduced to such technology earlier and earlier, a multitude of factors need to be considered when deciding on the right time – including the child’s maturity, experience with technology, and ability to use the device responsibly.
If Santa puts a smartphone or tablet under the Christmas tree for your child this year, here are some important to-do’s to help ensure your child has a positive experience:
- Set up the device’s lock function to prevent unauthorized access.
- Set a strong password (for the phone and any apps or social networking sites) and remind your child not to share their passwords with anyone.
- Install and/or activate remote locate/lock/wipe software.
- Ensure geo-tagging is turned off – this feature tags all photos taken on the device with an exact location.
- Keep an eye on privacy and permission settings and know what information about your child is being shared publicly.
- Add family and emergency contacts to the device and ensure your child is aware that they can and should call you and/or dial 911 in an emergency.
Most importantly, talk to you child regularly about safe and responsible technology use on an ongoing basis. Discuss your expectations with regards to how, where and when they use their device. It’s also important to take the time to actively participate in their digital life so you can understand how they use the device, what apps they are using, and who they are communicating with. This short guide provides information about some popular social media apps and safety tips to keep in mind. Lastly, create a safe environment for them so they know they can turn to you if and when they need guidance or experience something online they need support with.
You may also want to consider establishing a contract between you (or Santa!) and your child, outlining the basic rules and responsibilities of having access to a smartphone. We’ve created one you can use – click here.
Wishing you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday season.