Children are more tech savvy than ever and even very young children are confident using mobile phones or tablets. Even with parental controls in place, it’s natural to worry about what your kids might accidentally be exposed to when they’re using your devices. There are some easy ways to make phones safer for kids of all ages, without making them feel spied on.
Choose The Right Time To Give Them Their Own Devices
Try not to be swayed by pleas for their own phone if you don’t think your child is ready. Young children can watch approved videos on your devices and certainly don’t need a phone of their own. For older children, use the promise of a phone to encourage them to show responsibility. You have to feel confident that your child is mature enough to use a phone in a responsible manner before you allow them your own. If you do decide the time is right, you can restrict usage at first until they prove they will use it properly. Ban the phone from going to school, and keep phones out of bedrooms at night.
Monitor Phone Usage
A child phone tracker app might feel intrusive, but used for the right reasons, it can be a great tool to keep your child safe. Use the apps to track locations in case of missed curfews, monitor app usage to ensure Facebook isn’t being used when they should be doing homework, and even check their messages and photos from your own phone if you’re worried about bullying.
Set Ground Rules
Ground rules for using the phone or tablet will help to make sure the phone isn’t cutting into schoolwork or other responsibilities. Which rules you set are up to you. Set hours for when phones can be used or ban phones at the dinner table. Only allow certain apps or social media channels. Make sure your kids understand about privacy and location services and how improper use could put them in danger. Speak to your children about what they should do if they receive abusive messages or inappropriate images.
Ask your children what they think the rules should be, so they are involved in the process and understand that the rules are for safety and not for restriction. If you’re setting rules like no phones at the dinner table or in bedrooms at night, make sure you abide by those rules yourself to set a good example.
Keep Talking To Them
Don’t assume that once you’ve bought them the phone, that’s it. Keep conversation about the phone open and be ready to change the rules or take the phone away if things aren’t working. Over the first few weeks of phone ownership, have regular chats with your child about what they used the phone for that day and how they feel about any social media they use. For older children, open chats about the sometimes conflicted messages from social media can help them be less likely to be upset by heavily filtered images or messages about diets and body image.
Discussing what’s going on with the phone may also help your teen be more open about other issues they’re thinking about. A chat about a mean message sent by a schoolmate could open up a conversation about any worries about friends or bullying, for example. Keep conversation open and non-judgemental. These chats aren’t to check they’re behaving, but to check they’re happy.
Use items in the news relating to social media or mobile phones to chat to your kids about being careful without making them feel pressured or quizzed. You can iron out any misunderstandings about safe phone use without an argument.
Block Adult Content
One of the major worries many parents have about giving their child a phone is that they will be able to access, accidentally or otherwise, adult content. Most mobile phone companies automatically block adult content when the phone is using data. Check whether the default with your company is for adult content to be on or not, and change it if you need to.
For phone use at home, check with your Broadband company what content filters you can put in place. When the kids are home and the phones are connected to your WiFi, you can block all adult content from accessed. Many companies now also offer the option to pause the WiFi, so you can shut it off for the kids at times when you aren’t there to keep an eye on things.