Perhaps your kid is the age where not only do they desperately want a new smartphone, but they should be at an age where they start learning to navigate more of this modern tech on their own. Whatever age you decide that this is, getting them their first phone can be a bit of a challenge. After all, it’s a responsibility, a safety concern, and a pathway to future independence, so teaching them to use it wrong can lead to more than a little disaster. As such, here are tips to help you navigate the manner with a little more ease.
Teaching them to safeguard their phone
First of all, it’s important that your kids know that their smartphone is a valuable commodity. Some people are not only going to want to steal it because the hardware is valuable, but they might also want the data that is on it. To that end, teach them about never leaving their phone lying out where others can potentially grab it and, furthermore, make sure you set a PIN or a password with them. It needs to be one that they remember but, more importantly, it needs to be strong enough that no one can guess it immediately. Teach your kid the importance of never disclosing the password or pin to anyone else, as well.
Prevent in-app purchases
It’s a story that we’ve heard too many times. Some poor parent, unknowing of the dangers, leaves their kids alone with the game that they’re always playing, only to find them running up bills in the three or even four digits (and more) on in-app purchases. A ton of free games have these in-app purchases that allow them to play longer or make the game easier or give them new content in the game. You can stop in-app purchases from a phone entirely or, if it is connected to an existing bank card, at least set a pin or require your own thumbprint before it will accept any purchases. After that money’s gone, it’s impossible to get it back, after all.
Don’t let them connect to anything and everything
Your home network is the perfect thing for your kids to connect with since you can fully control that network with parental controls, passwords, and the like. But you can’t make sure that every network is as safe and as secure as your home network. A lot of phones will automatically connect to public networks but this can be dangerous and people can monitor those connections and exploit them. You can use network filters on your child’s phone to make sure that they’re not able to connect to any and every network. Virtual private networks can also safeguard public network connections to some degree but they’re not a sure thing.
Be aware of the inappropriate options
You might not think that your child would want to go looking at any content that is specifically meant for adults or crosses the line in any way. However, kids of all ages are curious and they will always be navigating new challenges, even those they know they shouldn’t and aren’t all that ready for. Most parents will likely monitor their phone at some point, at least for a while, to make sure that they can track any activity that they’re taking part in to make sure that it’s not too inappropriate. Of course, you need to set the standards with them on what this appropriate content is and limit their controls when necessary.
Keeping them off the worst offenders
There are some sites, such as those with explicit adult content, that you’re already going to want to keep your children off. In other cases, you might learn about certain websites they should avoid because of monitoring activities. To that end, there are website blocking tools that you and only you can access that you can add new sites to once you discover them. That way, you can make sure that you’re able to reflexively bar access to the worst of what the internet has to offer. Most phones have in-built parental controls, as well.
Learn more about what they’re doing
You should make it clear ot your child that, for a time at least, there is going to be an expectation of transparency about how they’re going to use their phone. It can be one of the stipulations for buying it to them in the first place. In exchange for allowing them a phone, they have to allow you to check it to make sure all apps, and media on it are safe. There are websites that track the child-friendliness of all sorts of movies, TV shows, as well as apps and games that they could download on their phone. You can find what’s on the phone and quickly search it up to see how appropriate it is. It’s easy for kids to access things that might not really be the most appropriate, so it’s on you to educate them with care if you find such software or media on their phone.
Handling their gaming habits
Most parents can tell you that, at a certain, it seems like gaming is all that some kids think about. It’s not all bad, of course, most of our generation has played video games responsibly and we recognize the life skills that games can teach kids, as well. However, video game addiction can be a real threat and it can lead to antisocial behaviors if it is done too much. You can use the above-mentioned parental control tools to make sure that they’re not using any gaming app for too long. As they get older, you can loosen those controls as you need, but it’s a good idea to keep them on for now.
At some point, you’re going to have to let go and watch the baby bird fly and take care of themselves on those devices. However, in the meantime, there are plenty of ways to make sure they’re being safe and responsible.