Is my child ready to own a mobile phone?

In today’s digital world, the growing number of connected devices means there’s often a concern about new security threats. From malware to phishing to targeted attacks, cybercrime is a very real hazard. But what does this mean for children who want to own their first phone? As a parent, how do you know they’re ready and responsible enough to use one?

You need to evaluate whether they can handle a device which automatically connects them to the world around them. This means social media, apps and messaging platforms. They will not necessarily understand the ramifications of posting on social networks or purchasing games. But if you trust your child to listen and abide by your rules, then they could be ready to own a mobile.

Here are some tips to help you decide.

  1. Educate them on how to use the phone safely

If you decide that your child can handle a phone responsibly, it’s best to then sit down and teach them about things such as cyber-bullying, the permanence of posting online and inappropriate content. To make this easier, you could find out if their school offers digital literacy classes or you could use websites such as CyberWise or Internet Matters which offer a range of lessons and helpful pages on digital safety and online citizenship.

  1. Create a family contract

Creating a family contract around usage of the mobile can ease your mind and help you to monitor how your child is using the phone. An example contract could include how the phone belongs to you; how you will have access to all passwords related to the phone and apps on the phone; the amount of screen time they will have and what happens if the family’s phone rules are not followed.

You will be able to find contracts online, but the key is to customize your own, to make it relevant to your family. If your child is engaged with the contract, then it’s a good sign they can be trusted with a mobile.

  1. Parental control apps

There are lots of apps, both free and paid, available to you which can help you to monitor and control how your child is using their phone. It’s important to find the one which works best for you, as many will track everything your child does on their phone while others will send parental alerts if high-risk words are used in texts or social media.

In today’s connected world, threats are everywhere. But we hope that these tips will help to ease your security concerns and decide when to provide your child with a mobile phone.