Children are obtaining their first phones at an increasingly young age. The combination of peer pressure and marketing targeted towards impressionable young people instils in them a desperate need to own the latest smartphones and gadgets.
Photo by Patryk Kamenczak
Although there are some benefits to children owning smartphones, such as contacting them at all times, there are significant risks. As a parent, you are undoubtedly concerned that your child will be spending too much time on their device, rotting their brain with endless games, and putting themselves at risk from scammers and cyberbullies.
There are numerous examples of children being exploited by advertisers encouraging them to spend extortionate amounts on in-game purchases using their parents’ credit cards. And most children won’t have enough experience and street smarts to distinguish a genuine website or URL link from a fraudulent one so that it will be much more susceptible to scams. Add to this, the fact that overuse and addiction to technology is a growing epidemic that has far-reaching consequences for children’s mental and physical health.
So what can you do to keep them safe on their phone? Here are four tips to help you.
Limit their phone’s capability
Giving your child a brand new smartphone and letting them loose on the internet is never a good idea. As an adult, you know the dangers of social media addiction and a sedentary lifestyle, but your child sees it as an exciting new gadget full of games and fun apps. If your child needs a phone to stay in touch with you, make sure they are using it for this primary purpose. You can buy many child-friendly phones that allow them to text and make calls without downloading apps or accessing the internet. Alternatively, you could install a parental control application on their smartphone that will enable you to limit the time they spend on their phone or restrict certain apps.
Encourage wholesome hobbies
Overuse of technology can lead to all kinds of problems, including vision issues, impaired cognition and memory, poor posture, and mental health deterioration. The more time they spend on their phones, the more likely they are to develop these issues. Limit your child’s screen time by encouraging them to engage in more healthy analog habits. Sports like running, football, and dance are excellent options, as are activities like board games, reading, and puzzles.
Protect them from scams
Children are innocent and naive and may not be able to detect a scam when it arises. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on their phone use and talk to them about the internet’s dangers. You might find unknown callers and suspicious numbers are bombarding your child’s phone, and you will want to get to the bottom of this right away. Family Orbit ran a recent post about tracing mobile numbers online, a useful guide to tracking down mysterious callers.
Set a good example
Your child looks up to you and will likely emulate your behaviour. Therefore, if they see you spending all day on your phone, they are unlikely to see it as a bad thing. Try to limit your technology consumption, especially when your kids are in the vicinity.