I am often asked at what age we gave the kids their own mobile phone.
In my mind, the perfect age is when the kids start secondary school at the age of 11 as they start walking to school by themselves and means they can get hold of me if there is a problem, or I can reach them if I am worrying because they are running late.
When Abbey and Callan were younger, mobile phones were used to make calls, send texts and maybe take the odd grainy photo, but these days kids all seem to have the latest smart phone with internet and social media access to tempt them away from their studies.
Talk to them about Internet Safety
Children learn through exploration and natural curiosity, and it is part of our job as parents and carers to encourage that.
It is important to remember that the internet is an amazing tool and if your kids are anything like mine, they already know their way around the internet, apps, games, and downloading. In fact, all the kid’s homework is now set through an app on my phone and is mostly completed on a computer or tablet, especially for the older ones.
It is vital to talk to them about internet safety from an early age in the same way you would talk about things in the real world, including stranger danger. We have passwords set so that the younger kids cannot download apps willy nilly, have installed YouTube Kids and have adjusted our security settings to ensure they cannot stumble across anything unsavoury.
Bullying also got hi-tech, with cyberbullying on the increase. You should not scare your child but talk to them about bullying and reinforce that if they face anything, be it in school or online that they talk to an adult and don’t retaliate. If its online, it is important to save the evidence too.
Once they hit secondary school age, it’s important to acknowledge that chatting online is how children keep in touch these days, and much as it frustrates me, it certainly keeps the phone bills down!
“If you wouldn’t do it face to face – Don’t do it online!” is a really good tip.
With Kian in his mid to late teens, we have reminded him that everything he does over the web is captured forever and could come back to haunt him. Many employers and university admissions offices look at social media profiles when researching candidates, plus there are friends and family that like a good old nosey so it’s important to lock down social media profiles if they don’t want their life on show.
Set up their device for them
The majority of mobile networks have parental controls you can activate to restrict what your child sees, although it is important to remember that these filters don’t apply if the phone is connected to wi-fi.
On Android, you can set a PIN for purchases from the Google Play Store and set the age level for app downloads.
On an iPhone, you can restrict browser access, location sharing, app access, in-app purchases, activate ‘find my iPhone’ and more.
Smartphones are attractive to thieves – particularly high-end handsets, so consider second-hand older handsets or ones that makes calls and texts but don’t include internet access. Accidents will happen, so also consider mobile phone insurance.
When your child gets a new phone, sit down with them, explain that it’s not a toy and talk to them about some of the issues they might face.
There are companies like Kaspersky, who offer practical solutions and tools that will help parents manage device security and children’s online activity while at school, like sensing new dangers and automatically giving you the right protection at the right time to stop any personal information falling into the wrong hands.
Manage the amount of time your children spend on a device
I know this is a massive challenge from my own personal experience, but it is good to have a clear set of rules laid out and most schools do too.
The kids are not allowed mobile phones in lessons, they must be on silent and stored in a bag or their locker.
You can further try to reduce distractions by switching off notifications too – many mobile phones will let you select times or just set your phone to “do not disturb”.
When they get home they are not with their friends so the temptation to go online is greater. We encourage homework first and downtime after with set time limits and technology off at least an hour prior to bedtime.
Technology is also not allowed in bedrooms, so any games they are playing or videos being watched can be supervised.
As someone who works with technology and social media it is a tricky balancing act and not one we always get right, but hopefully these tips will help you keep your child safe and happy.
Disclaimer: Post written in collaberation with Kapersky. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com