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Many kids look forward to receiving their first phone. It’s okay to fulfill that wish. Before handing your child a smartphone, there are essential things to consider. This article will mention the five most important tips.
1. Want vs. need
A need is a necessity, and a want is something one wishes to have but isn’t necessary. Your child may want a high-end smartphone, but you may have other thoughts. You might even want to hand them one of your older phone models, which is fine.
Want vs. need is an essential lesson for kids that applies to other life areas. You can offer your child a low-end smartphone and teach them that it’s what they need at the time. If they want a better one, you can introduce another lesson: people usually work for what they want. Maybe offer them the low-end phone first and ensure they take care of it (don’t lose or break it). After several months of displaying responsibility, you can upgrade it to a higher version.
Alternatively, your kid can partly pay for the phone via allowances, birthday money, holiday money, etc.
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2. Parental control is important
A smartphone connected to the internet is a wild world that kids can’t usually navigate without parental guidance. It’s not advisable to just hand over a smartphone to your child and let them do whatever they want. A parental control app is required to ensure they use their devices safely.
Some notable parental control features to implement include:
Limit screen time: Screens can be very distracting. There is an endless limit of content to watch online, so your child may only stop if you set restrictions. You can limit how many hours they are allowed to use their smartphone daily, e.g., 2 hours, except for schoolwork-related use. The idea is to ensure they don’t get addicted to smartphones and stay up late at night when they should be asleep.
Social media: We live in the era of popular social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. These platforms enable people to connect with each other but come with many drawbacks. For instance, kids may encounter unethical strangers who want to take advantage of them. These platforms are also rife with misleading content designed to trick unsuspicious people. It’s advisable that kids stay away from social media. If they really need it to connect with peers, you can set up an account for them but monitor it strictly.
Privacy: Smartphones can be abused to invade people’s privacy. Many apps collect location data and abuse it. If you get your kid a smartphone, it’s advisable to disable GPS tracking for apps. The exception is if it’s a parental control app that you use to track their location.
Monitor their online activities: Check what your children browse online. Check their browsing history and the apps and websites they visit to ensure they aren’t interacting with inappropriate content. Most importantly, communicate with them and build trust so they can tell you even things that may be inconvenient. Remember that kids can be savvy and attempt to hide their online activities from you.
3. Choose the operating system
Adults have their preferences when choosing between the two most popular smartphone operating systems; iOS and Android. However, there are major differences between these two regarding parental control.
The rule of thumb is that iOS leaves parents with less control over their kids’ use. This is because Apple is more strict about privacy and gives users less control over modifying their iPhone. Thus, parental control apps are limited in what they can achieve.
Android smartphones are more flexible, so it’s easier for parental control apps to implement their features. However, they are less convenient to use than iOS devices. If your child is tech-savvy, they could even modify their Android devices to bypass parental control features.
It's up to you to decide which type of parental control features and whether an iOS or Android device will be more suitable.
4. Create a family sharing account
A family sharing account makes it easier to manage your kids’ devices. This feature is more prominent on iOS devices than on Android ones. Family sharing lets you share apps you’ve already paid for with your kids’ devices and avoid extra charges. After setting it up, you can even add apps to your kid's smartphone from your own. Likewise, you can adjust the settings so your children must get permission from your device before downloading any content, including apps and movies. This will ensure they don't interact with inappropriate content.
Family sharing also enables you to set screen time limits without stress. You can dictate from a parental control app just how long your child can use their device in a day, and it’ll automatically lock once that time limit is exceeded. Likewise, you can easily track your child’s location with family sharing enabled.
5. Create a contract
Before buying your kid their first phone, you can draft a formal contract specifying how they'll use it. The contract should include stipulations on who your child can contact online, their allowed screen time, what apps they can download, what happens if they break their smartphone, etc.
Of course, you won’t sue your kids in court if they break the contract. The idea is to show that a smartphone comes with specific responsibilities they must adhere to. They risk losing their device if they fail to adhere to the stated responsibilities.
Above all, model good phone etiquette. Children are more likely to imitate what their parents do. If you don’t want them to use phones at the dinner table, adhere to the same rule. If they shouldn’t answer texts in the middle of a conversation, adhere to the same behavior, etc. Leadership by example is the best way.