It is thought that more than 50% of children under the age of ten own a mobile phone, and by the time children reach high school, a whopping 70% of them own and carry a mobile phone with them. This has some benefits – you can keep in touch with your child wherever they are and keep an eye on their whereabouts.
However, giving a young child a phone and expecting them to use it responsibly and safely is a huge deal. They are the first generation to use them from such a young age, so it is a steep learning curve both the children and parents.
Whether they have a fancy contract or a simple, easy to use sim-only plan from https://www.smarty.co.uk there are plenty of things that you need to bear in mind. Here, we look at some of the things you can do to help keep your mobile-phone owning child safe and secure.
No one likes to think that their child would get up to no good. The fact of the matter is that mobiles, combined with peer pressure and lack of education as to good mobile practices, mean that kids can and do get up to mischief with their phones. As a parent, it is essential that you understand the risk factors associated with children using mobile phones. These include:
It is up to you, as the parent and the responsible party, to make sure that your child is kept as safe as possible from the above.
However, the network operator of the phone that you buy for your child does hold a certain amount of responsibility when it comes to protecting a minor. In the UK, all network operators are required by law to block any inappropriate web content from phones used by children. This may involve phoning up and speaking to someone in customer services to request this, but it is something that they have to do. It is also import to bear in mind that this system is not foolproof, and occasionally, some dodgy sites may slip through the net. If your child does come across something inappropriate, let your mobile provider know as soon as possible so that they can put a block on it.
Many networks offer some other features and services to make them more child-friendly. For example, you can stop worrying that your child will use more than their plan allows and spending a lot of money by capping their phone use, or sending you a message when they are getting close to their limit. However, this does vary by operator, so make sure you check this before you sign up.
Before you give your child full reign over a mobile phone, it is vital to check the settings on it. These days, many phones come with specific child settings which you can control – and protect with a password. Of course, each model of phone is different, so it is essential to read the manual and get to know the phone first.
You may also want to consider downloading a specific app which lets you control and monitor your child’s phone more tightly. There are various ones out there, some are free, and some need paying for, and they all have different features. Two popular ones are Net Nanny and Mobile Guardian. Many of these apps allow you to lock down particular apps, set times when the phone
Finally, you might want to consider downloading a specific app that will allow you to control your child’s phone use more closely. Again, there are many of these, some paid, some free, and with different combinations of features. Mobile Guardian and Net Nanny are two of the most popular apps. Look for something that allows you to lock down apps, set times when the phone will not work (such as during school hours), and that lets you see reports of your child’s phone use and web activity.
While your operator, the phone settings and strict parental control can help to protect your child when they are using their mobile phone, the most essential thing that you can do by far is to educate your child as to the dangers of using a phone. This will help them to make sensible decisions and what to do if something goes wrong. Here are just a few of the things that you might want to talk to them about:
It is a good idea to teach them the three ‘c’s:
One of the biggest dangers posed to children by a mobile phone is their access to apps, social media in particular. There are age restrictions on most of them – for example, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are 13.
Of course, many children lie about their age in order to use these platforms, and there are some adults out there who pretend to be children to get close to children – this is known as grooming. If your child does use these platforms, insist on checking their messages and activities on a regular basis and make sure that their privacy settings are at the very highest that they can be. They should only be friends or follow people that they know in real life.
Remind them that once they post a status or a picture, it can be there forever, even if they delete it. A little bit of technical know-how or a simple screenshot can mean that the image can be circulated globally within minutes, so it is important that they consider what they are posting very carefully.
Another thing to point out is that in the future, employers and college admission officers may check their social media footprint when considering whether to accept them for a place or a job. Even things posted as a young teenager can come back to haunt them if they are not careful, as many celebrities now know!
With a little preparation and careful parenting, giving your child a mobile phone can be very beneficial. But just because mobiles are omnipresent these days does not mean that they are perfectly safe. You need to work together with your child so that they know the boundaries and what to do if they do not like something they come across online or on their mobile phone.