A 2016 update of the Influence Central digital-usage study revealed that the new average age of children who get their first smartphones is 10.3 years old. Moreover, 64% of kids can now access the internet through their own laptops or mobile gadgets, as opposed to 42% in 2012. And when it comes to social media, 50% of children have their own accounts at 12 years old.
Although these findings clearly demonstrate that the age of tech savvy kids keeps on getting younger and younger, it’s still up to parents to decide if they should hand smartphones or tablets to their little ones.
If you are wondering whether it’s time to let your own child have their very own mobile gadget, check out the reminders listed below.
Introduce them to mobile devices properly
Childcare resource PBS Parents advises that parents should wait until their child is at least 3-years-old before exposing them to smartphones or tablets. This is because children aged 2 and below still learn best from real world experiences, rather than watching or interacting with a program tailored for toddlers on a screen.
At age 3, however, they can already benefit from educational programs and apps, in addition to their non-digital counterparts. Dr. Carolyn James, a designer of learning toys and games, says that “This [educational media] content often uses strategies such as repeating an idea, presenting images and sounds that capture attention, and using child rather than adult voices for the characters.”
Take into consideration your child’s everyday environment and activities
There are several things you need to ask yourself first before heading over to the tech store to buy a smartphone for your child, regardless of his/her age according to media outlet CBC News. For instance, if your child takes the bus on his/her own or walks alone to school, a phone will be useful to always have as an available means of communication.
This also holds true for children who have after school activities so they can stay in contact with their parents or ask mom or dad to fetch them when it’s time to go home, especially when it’s already getting dark.
Check the device’s specifications and features, subscription plans, and which applications to install
Tech press group Digital Trends listed some child friendly smartphones, each with its own unique features. Capabilities like GPS tracking and parental controls are some of the most vital when choosing a mobile phone for your child.
It is important to note, however, that you should avoid tracking your child’s phone behind their back so you won’t break their trust. Have an honest conversation with your child about why you would enable tracking features and relay the importance of safety and security. Make it clear to your child that it is not to spy on them.
Some mobile devices have nifty features like SOS buttons or a sync option to a parent’s phone for remote access. Premium smartphones on the other hand, like iPhone 6S, are now equipped with security enhancements such as fingerprint sensors, explains O2 as a means of protection from accidental or uncontrolled online purchases.
Explore different subscription plans as well. A ‘pay as you go’ plan is practical; as you can match it to your child’s needs, rather than taking an unlimited plan right away. Additionally, there are plans that allow families to share minutes and data.
Selecting applications is also necessary regarding your child’s mobile experience. For instance, a blog post from Roo Kids highlighted why it’s important to use kid-safe chat apps. It was mentioned that some apps attract predators and other malicious elements due to the anonymity provided by these types of software. These applications and online interactions play a crucial role to your child’s safety and wellbeing.
Set rules and manage how much time your child will spend daily on a mobile device
You can also set up rules such as ‘No phones during dinner.’ To maintain your child’s perspective of balance about digital and real world interaction. It is also advised to discuss cyberbullying and sexting with older children to enlighten them of the dangers of using technology.
Limiting screen time is important as well. Jeannie Galindo, an instructional technology supervisor at Manatee County School District in Florida recommends “no more than a half an hour per sitting for a four to five year old, no more than an hour per sitting for a six to seven year old.”
For high school students on the other hand, two hours or less is enough especially in gaming. But Galindo also said, “If the student is using the device as a productivity tool that time would obviously be greater.”
As your child grows older, you can gradually increase freedom. Just make sure to continuously instill the value of responsibility.
With all these considerations in mind, you can now thoroughly prepare your child for handling mobile gadgets. Remember that the society today relies heavily on technology; hence letting your child have a smartphone or tablet will definitely impact his/her life while growing up, all the way into adulthood.
Exclusively written for Roo Kids App
Roo Kids Chat App is a kid-friendly instant messenger with minimum but critical parental controls.
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