Thinking about giving your kid a Phone - Read this first

rules for kids getting first smartphone - online safety guidance for parents and kids
Starting to think about giving your kid a smartphone

The Reality could be worse than you thought

The idea and reality of owning a new pet can be very different. While we might imagine the puppy snuggling up with the family in front of the fire. Don't forget the cleaning up after him, chewing your shoes to death, eating your furniture or tidying his little poops.

The reality of your children owning a smartphone — we think it will be good for our children if they can stay in touch with us and deepen family bonds, but it’s a huge life change and an ongoing responsibility.

The first conversation with your child about online safety

The first conversation with your child should happen before you give them the smartphone. This is the ideal opportunity to lay down the law, setting the rules from the off. Go for a start with tough rules. No rules and no oversight from the start means you will almost certainly never be able to control their use in the future.

  • Agree permanently
  • Access to the phone
  • No downloads without approval
  • Spot Checks
  • No Strangers
  • No Headphones
  • Know their passwords
  • Friends not followers

The agreement must state that the child needs to come to the parent immediately if they encounter any difficulties online. There could also be a commitment on behalf of the parents that if the child experiences a problem online, it will not immediately lead to the loss of the phone. The fear that they will lose access to their phone is the number one reason children do not share their difficult online experiences with their parents.

Five things a child should never share;

  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
  • Be careful about sharing images that reveal your identity and whereabouts.
  • Be aware as soon as you post a photo online, you surrender ownership of it.
  • Think before posting and consider the consequence of that action.
  • Never share your Name, address, Tel no, date of birth, Pets name, email, password
  • Never switch on In-App purchasing. Dangers of In-App purchasing

Responsibilities online

If your child can fix the Wi-Fi modem or hack into the parental controls may mean they have an impressive set of digital skills but may not mean they are prepared to negotiate sextortion emails that might find their way to their inbox. Digital literacy involves much more than just being able to operate PowerPoint and Excel, it means avoiding being the subject of spam and scams and conducting yourself online properly and in common sense. We need to pay special attention to social media like Snapchat, and TikTok for young kids.

advise for parents and kids on online safety, internet safety rules for kids
You will never meet parents who regretted setting rules not guidelines for kids online, gaming.

Trust & Verify

Access to the internet is a privilege, not a right. When your child clearly shows they can conduct themselves safely online, we can give them more freedom. But still, trust and verify. Rules encourage the child to see there are ways in which trust can be earned and lost. It places the responsibility on them and shows the benefits and consequences of abiding by and breaking the rules.

Another side of the coin

Smartphone ownership does not need to be all about “rules”. Parents need to be explicit about the family’s value system with their children. Most expect our children to be respectful, kind, inclusive, and fair — these qualities equally apply to how your child will conduct themselves online. Parents are concerned that their child may be the victim of online abuse or misbehaviour. They give much less thought to the possibility that their child could be the perpetrator.

It is easy to forget our values when communicating online. The “keyboard warrior” within us suggests we say things online that we would not say face-to-face. Children fall prey to this dynamic and engage in cruel or exclusionary behaviour towards others. Primary school kids are capable of the most shocking, vile messaging to others.

Zero Tolerance

Remember, children are not socially or emotionally mature. So these types of exchanges in an unsupervised online space are inevitable. Be very clear about how we expect them to communicate with others and stress there will be zero tolerance for online cruelty. We all make mistakes as we progress through our adolescence, crossing the line and saying something idiotic or that you regret. In the online world; 

  • Everything is shared. In a second a stupid screenshot can leave an indelible imprint on your child’s reputation. 
  • Surveillance, supervision and support of your child’s online communications are critical in the initial stages of their smartphone journey.
  • Never go directly to another parent. Go to the Police first or the school.

Handy checklist

If you think your child is ready to head online, make them consider:  

  • The responsibilities of smartphone ownership.
  • Write and state their responsibilities and how they can gain more online freedom by sensible, fair and honest usage.
  • Is your child truly ready for the internet? Would you let your kid out in Amsterdam at 11 pm or into a German porn movie house?  
  • Ask the child to tell you about any uncomfortable online experience and that you will help them handle it.

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Regrets. I've had a few.

You will never regret not following the above recommendations, not once. Parents will always regret being too lenient in allowing kids to roam free in the gaming sphere and online. 

Articles of Interest

Articles, Links & Connections from the Internet Safety Talks site you might find interesting

  1. What is Sexting
  2. Help! I just saw a naked picture of my teen on her phone
  3. Teenagers need a good Online Reputation 
  4. Can the Police search your Phone?
  5. TikTok Safety for Kids - TikTok Safety 
  6. Rules for 5 - 8 year-olds online 5 - 8 Years  


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