In a world of technology advancement, what aspects should a mother consider before giving her a child a mobile phone?
There is no doubt that our children are becoming extremely advanced when it comes to digital technology. A lot of mothers have reported being pressured to buy their children mobile phones so early on in their childhood. According to the new independent report on mobile ownership and usage among kids published by CHILDWISE, a leading specialist in research with children and young people, 53% of kids are owning smartphones by the time they are seven.
As mothers, we assure to protect our children in as many ways as we can. Although kids owning a mobile phone at a young age provides instant contact with their parents and may help to provide location services for them, we are still fearful of all the negative side effects of children owning a phone at a very young age. Owning a mobile phone at such a young age could connect children to websites, videos, games and even people that are beyond their age limits. It is also considered as ‘screen time’ that children should be very limited to, which could lead to long-term health effects.
Trying to decide when your child is ready to have a phone might be quite challenging. According to Psychologist Catherine Steiner, it does not depend on their age but rather if you feel like your child is developmentally ready to take this responsibility. Also, whether you, as a parent, feel like you have laid the groundwork to prepare your child for healthy and responsible device use.
Therefore, if a mother feels the need to give her child a phone at a very young age, there are aspects for her to consider beforehand and ensure to put the right security in place to protect her children. These include:
Responsible conversations with your child(:) It is important to sit down with your child and have a conversation about phone usage and what it is limited to. It is essential that you talk to your child about responsibility and protection. It is also important to set up rules and clear consequences if rules are broken. There is also a suggestion to make a ‘mobile phone contract’ with your child in which they can have the rules written on a piece of paper and take the responsibility of signing it. Topics to also consider talking about include inappropriate texts and photos.
Sim-Free Mobile Phones: If possible, it is best to provide your child with a sim-free mobile phone to limit the dangerous use of the mobile phones and limit unwanted connections. If they are out, it is important to explain to them to connect to friendly Wi-Fi-hotspots. This is a scheme provided by the government to make sure all adult websites are securely blocked.
Adult Filters. It is essential to set security filters based on the age of your child. Whether its on YouTube or application purchases. This way you can try to limit the inappropriate content that could be visible for your child. Some broadband providers will also provide services which include network filters.
Screen Time Management. The American Heart Association asks parents to limit their children’s screen time for kids and teens to around two hours a day. A lot of screen time could lead children to be less physical and therefore cause long term effects like obesity. Not only that, but a lot of screen time limits the quality time that children should be spending with their family. Therefore, children should learn the habit of ‘unplugging’ and that family time is phone-free time.
In-app Purchases. Parents should make app purchases more secure and make sure that their children are not downloading anything without their consent. This is because some applications are restricted to older ages and may include inappropriate advertisements and content.
Educate them on cyberbullying. It is important to keep children informed about cyberbullying and to make them feel comfortable to come to you if in any case they are bullied. In the world of advanced technology and communication, bullies can be everywhere, even in games. Another essential factor to consider is to teach your child the dangers of bullying and that they should not be bullies themselves.
Inappropriate pictures. It is crucial to teach and inform your child about inappropriate photos and videos. A good way to explain it is to say: Don’t put or take pictures of things you do not want me to see. Teach them that we do not post photos or personal information online for security purposes.
It is your phone not theirs. When giving your child a phone, it is necessary to tell your child that this phone is not their property, but yours. They do not own it, and you do. Therefore, you have the right to take it back whenever you feel like the rules have been broken. Also, you have the right to switch it off during late hours of the night.
History. It is also relevant to make sure you check your child’s history on a daily basis. If you find anything inappropriate, you should have a conversation with your child and explain to them what they have done wrong. It is important to avoid yelling and your child and explaining calmly because this is how your child will be able to listen, understand and probably stop breaking the rules.
Therefore, as much as it may be a difficult decision for us mothers to give our children a mobile phone at a very young age, these steps could help monitor and secure your child’s activity on a mobile phone. Although we can not protect them 100% from the dangers of the world, we can always do our outmost best.