As technology becomes such an ingrained part of our lives, it’s easy to forget the drawbacks and dangers it can pose. When it comes to your children, however, it’s vital to be proactive about tech safety. In most households, kids will grow up using technology but allowing them to have their own devices means giving them a little more independence and control.
If your child’s been asking for a new device or they’re starting to spend more time going out with friends unsupervised, you’re probably wondering if they’re ready for the responsibility that a smartphone brings. To help you keep your kids safe in a technological era, take a look at these five smartphone safety tips now:
1. Understanding How Data Works
If you have an internet connection at home, your child will probably be used to logging in whenever they need to. On a smartphone, however, it’s easy to use mobile data to access the internet, even if a broadband connection is available. Users may not even realise that they’re using data to surf the net, particularly if their phone doesn’t automatically connect to other networks.
For kids, the widespread availability of the internet means that they rarely think about how much it can cost to access the internet. In fact, your child might assume that they can use their smartphone to go online for free. Of course, it only takes one extortionate phone bill for this myth to be disproved!
Before you let your kid loose with any tech device, take the time to explain exactly how data allowances work. Additionally, if you’re happy for your child to connect to your home internet via their phone, set this up on their handset so that it is the default connection. Of course, choosing a plan that caps usage or offers unlimited data can be a viable way to ensure your child doesn’t inadvertently run up expensive charges.
2. Accessing the Internet
Smartphones can do so much more than simply make calls or receive texts; in fact, they’re more like a miniature computer than a traditional mobile phone. Although the extensive functionality of the average smartphone makes them extremely useful, it also means that your child will have easy access to the internet once they have their own handset.
Ideally, you should teach your child how to use the internet safely well before they have their own smartphone. If your kid has grown up using your phone or a family laptop, for example, they may already be well-versed in how to stay safe online.
However, kids are never too old to be reminded about online dangers. Only communicating with people in their contacts list, monitoring which apps they download and implementing parental locks should be commonplace when your child first gets their own smartphone. This allows them to have a little online independence but still enables you to ensure they’re staying safe while using the internet.
3. Choosing the Right Plan
Selecting the right call plan for your child is even more important than finding the right handset. While your kid might be focused on what colour their phone is or how many gigabytes of memory it has, your focus should be on how much the plan costs, what extra charges can be added, and whether there are any minimum terms.
Taking out a standard mobile phone contract for your child may seem like an obvious solution but this option has quite a few drawbacks. Not only will you be required to pay a high monthly line rental fee, but you’ll also be tied into a contract for 12, 18, or 24-months. Furthermore, not all networks allow you to cap your usage, which means your child could inadvertently run up a large bill that you’ll be liable for.
Fortunately, there are other ways you can allow your child to have their own smartphone, without blowing your household budget. Finding the best SIM only deals means you can drastically reduce your monthly expenditure. With Lebara’s best SIM only deals, for example, you can access cost-effective plans for just a few pounds of month. What’s more – out of bundle usage is capped, so there’s no risk of unexpected bills and 30-day rolling plans means you can change or cancel at any time.
4. Managing Screen Time
Today’s parents are already well aware of the importance of managing screen time but, when your child gets a new device, the same issue may rear its head. If you spend a significant amount of time enforcing screen time limits, you might feel apprehensive about letting your child have their own smartphone, but laying down some ground rules from the outset can help to ensure things run smoothly.
You may want to ban your child from taking their smartphone to bed at night, for example, or limit how long they’re allowed to spend playing games on their phone or chatting to friends online. Similarly, turning phones off at mealtimes or leaving handsets at home when you’re out together can be a good way to prioritise family time.
Use the opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of ‘non-tech time’ and what it can do for their well-being. By giving your kids plenty of access to fun offline activities, you can ensure that they have a well-rounded list of hobbies they enjoy too.
5. Being Social Media Savvy
For tweens and teens, being active on social media is a lifeline, so expect your child to use it at some point or another. Banning social media completely is more likely to result in your child using it without your knowledge, so allowing your child to have their own social media accounts but monitoring their usage could be a more effective way to keep them safe.
Make sure your child only adds people they know in real-life to their lists of social media friends, fans, or subscribers. Similarly, ensure your kids don’t display personal information via social media or allow their location to be identified.
However, it isn’t just ‘online stranger danger’ that you need to be aware of when it comes to social media. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is a common occurrence and it’s something that can easily go unnoticed. By monitoring your child’s messages and posts, you can identify any unwanted behaviours and protect them from unkindness or bullying.
If you don’t have a social media account yourself, now might be a good time to set one up. This will enable you to join your child’s online circle and keep an eye on who they’re interacting with and what they’re posting on social media.
Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?
Many parents are hesitant about allowing their child to have their own phone but learning how to use technology is essential for today’s kids. As your child approaches their teenage years, having a smartphone can also enable them to stay in touch when they’re out and about, which means it could increase their safety too.
By teaching your child how to use their smartphone safely, choosing the right plan, and monitoring their usage, you can ensure that having access to their own device is a positive experience, rather than a negative one.