Kids And Cell Phones: 9 Tips For Parents

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Most of us didn’t grow up with cell phones – and if we did, they were basic bricks capable only of calls and texts. Today’s phones can do everything from taking photos to accessing the internet. They may only be small devices, but they carry huge power.

Giving kids responsibility over this power can be daunting – especially as it can expose kids to many dangers from viewing harmful adult content to cyberbullying to mobile game addiction. There are also other things to consider when giving your kids a phone such as how much it costs and who pays for it.

All in all, it can be a lot to consider a parent. To help you to make the right choices when giving your kid a phone, here are 9 useful tips.

Make sure your child is ready to own a phone

On average, a child gets their first phone at the age of 10. That isn’t to say that all 10-year olds are ready to own a phone though. You should consider your child’s maturity and whether they actually need a phone first.

If your child has a certain amount of independence and can go to the shop by themselves or walk to school alone, giving them a phone could be a good idea. If they still spend most of their time in your company, a phone may not be necessary. You may also want to consider how good your child is at looking after their belongings – if they easily damage and lose things, a phone may not be appropriate.

Most kids will want a phone early and may even try to talk you into giving them a phone because their ‘friends have one’. Don’t let this sway your judgement – a phone isn’t just a trendy toy. If other parents give their children phones long before you do, it could just mean that they’re being less responsible parents.

Recycle one of your old phones

You don’t want to be buying the latest iPhone or Samsung model as your child’s first phone. In fact, you probably don’t need to buy a phone at all. Many of us have old phones lying around in our homes gathering dust that could be perfect as a first cell phone.  

The benefit of using an old phone is that if your kid loses it or damages it, you won’t lose any money. You’ll also be familiar with the phone and may be able to set it up more easily for them.

Shop around for phone plans

You don’t want to be spending huge amounts on an expensive phone contract. By shopping around for child-friendly plans, you can save money.

If you’re using an old phone, it might be worth looking into SIM only plans such as these SMARTY SIM plans. Such plans allow you to customise options such as how much data is necessary. Pay-as-you-go plans could also be an option and could help to limit your child’s phone usage.

Activate parental controls

Most modern phones come with parental controls, often found in a phones settings. These can be worth activating to help restrict what your child can see and do.

Disabling in-app purchases could be necessary. These are small purchases that can be made through apps such as mobile games (some games are very pushy about buying these extras). By disabling in-app purchases, you can ensure that they don’t accidentally buy any of these extras.

You may also be able to block access to specific apps. This might include apps containing adult content or social media apps (if your child is too young for them).

You’ll usually be able to protect these settings with a password. This could ensure that your child doesn’t change these settings.

Understand the apps they’re using

It’s important that you know what apps your kids are using. Young kids (below 12) may be too young to start using social media such as Snapchat and Instagram and you may want to be careful of certain games. While some apps may seem like they’re aimed at kids, they may in fact be more adult-oriented.

There are guides online that can help you familiarize yourself with some of the most common apps that kids use.

Keep your kids safe with apps

There are many apps to keep kids safe that you can use. These are worth researching and downloading.

For instance, there are apps that can limit your child’s internet usage and the pages they see. This could prevent them seeing adult content or could restrict access to social media.

There are also apps that can allow you to monitor your child’s location. This could be useful for keeping an eye on young teens.

Sites like Education App Store offer a list of apps that could come in handy.

Discuss safety and security concerns

It’s important that you discuss the dangers of cell phone use with your kids so that they understand why you may want to be protective. Even with protection in place, there’s always a risk that you kids may still be exposed to these dangers.

It’s important you teach your kids about security and protecting their data. Make sure that your kids use strong passwords and teach them about potential scam emails/calls/texts.

Cyberbullying could also be a topic worth discussing. Kids can now get bullied from the comfort of their own home. Make your kids feel that they can open up to you if they’re being cyber bullied and that they can turn their phone off/delete apps if it’s getting too much.

You may also want to discuss the dangers of sexting once your child reaches their teen years. Sending sexually explicit texts or photos could have negative consequences as they can be easily shared – which can lead to cyberbullying.  

Teaching ‘stranger danger’ is also important when it comes to avoiding predators online. Encourage kids to never accept friend requests or reply to messages from strangers – there are adults out there that pose as kids.

Finally, as you kids start to drive, you may want to warn them of the dangers of using their phone will driving. Texting while driving can be the biggest danger – if they get distracted, tell them to turn their phone off while driving.

Don’t let them take their phone to bed

There are lots of reasons as to why kids shouldn’t take a phone to bed. When they’re in their bedroom you cannot monitor their phone usage. It could also harm their sleep – whether or not they’re staying up until the early hours on their phone, staring at a bright screen before bed has been shown to negatively affect sleep quality.

Know when your child is old enough to pay for their phone

A lot of parents start by paying for their child’s contract. However, as you child starts earning some of their own money, you may want them to start contributing to it. Allowing your child to pay their phone bill could be useful for helping them develop a credit score and could make them more aware of extra costs such as going over one’s data allowance.

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