Five Important Factors to Consider When Giving Your Child a Cell Phone
We live in the digital age. A hyperconnected era where children have access to the Internet at a really early age. Thanks to these devices, minors connect more with each other and weave broader social networks. At the same time, they learn faster and soon become digital natives. However, giving a cell phone to a child or pre-adolescent can be risky for them. Moreover, it presents certain responsibilities for their guardians.
These are some of the questions we want to reflect on in this article. We’re going to employ some advice offered by the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Transmitting knowledge, instructing, and training children about the wide range of opportunities that technology offers is sometimes difficult. Especially since the risks are often not particularly visible. Furthermore, it should be the job of the adult, rather than the child, to identify them and take protective measures.
“A cell phone is more than just a phone.”
What you must consider when giving a cell phone to your child
As an adult, it’s your responsibility that your child has a safe and enjoyable experience in their first relationship with technology. Indeed, there have often been scares related to the misuse of cell phones. These range from making charges unauthorized by their parents (for example, with video game subscriptions) to more serious circumstances, such as pedophilia. That’s because there are adults on the Internet who pretend to be young to stalk minors on the web.
In addition, you must take into account that the Internet is the access route to new forms of harassment, such as cyberbullying, so you must ensure you frequently check their cell phone. After all, prevention is better than cure.
You must also be aware that your child needs quality time outside of the digital universe. In fact, playing and interacting with their peers in real life is extremely important for their correct evolutionary development.
1. Be prepared for the arrival of the cell phone
Before you hand them the cell phone, make an agreement with them on how they use it. Find a comfortable and quiet place to explain to them both its benefits and possible risks.
Today, children of increasingly younger ages are immersed in technology. That said, as their parent, you should consider how mature your child is before providing them with a cell phone. To guarantee their safe use of the device, you could draw up a document that lists its correct uses, as well as the risks. You might want to accompany it with images or drawings that they find appealing.
2. Review, monitor, and set restrictions
There are various software programs and apps that allow you, as a parent to monitor your child’s access to the Internet. You might think that this is an intrusion into your child’s private life. However, as minors, their safety is in your hands.
You must remember that it’s important that your child’s daily routine revolves around important areas like studying, doing homework, playing, talking, etc. If you notice that the time they’re dedicating to these areas is decreasing, you should think about establishing restrictions on the use of their cell phone. After all, it’s important that they develop correctly. For this to happen, interaction with their peers in the real world is essential.
“Keep the possibility open of unlocking content of interest appropriate to their level of maturity, and agree with them on filters, restrictions and times.”
3. Protect them
As an adult, you probably often feel wary of exposing yourself too much on the Internet. Children are also vulnerable to this public exposure. Therefore, you must talk to them about being careful when providing data about themselves to third parties.
After giving your child a cell phone, you should talk to them about the uses offered by the different social media apps and about how they should use their personal data. For example, their name and surname, photographs, and description of their interests. You should try and work as a team in configuring how they use their personal data.
Although it’s sometimes not known, various apps allow the configuration of different levels of depth regarding privacy. Therefore, it’s worthwhile establishing what information other people can access according to the levels of privacy set, and what data they’re excluded from accessing. You should also recommend that your child use a pseudonym instead of their real name.
4. What games are they playing?
The cell phone is no longer just a gateway to other people. It’s much more. From capturing unforgettable scenes, to playing online with others from all over the world, cell phones provide a whole digital universe of options.
Taking an interest in the virtual games in which your child spends their leisure hours can provide you with valuable information. For example, this content might often be unsuitable for their age or developmental level. For this reason, you should set limits by restricting their access to games that revolve around violent or sexual content.
“Accompanying them in their digital life also means supervising what they play, how much time they spend on the cell phone, and how they behave.”
5. Who are they talking to?
Supervising who your child is talking to on their cell phone is especially important. Today, there are increasingly more children connected digitally. Moreover, the number of cases of cyberbullying, cyberbaiting, grooming, and harassment of children is on the rise. If you want to avoid these worrying eventualities, you must monitor who they’re chatting with online.
To do this, you can establish a ‘contract of use’ in which you agree with your child what things they can do and what they should avoid. In it, you can establish the days and hours in which you’ll review their cell phone. Of, if you’re going to review it on a random basis with no prior notice. It’s worth noting that, if your child knows that you’re going to carry it out, they’re more likely to comply with the rules and feel less irritated afterward.
As you can see, there are many aspects to take into account if you decide to give your child a cell phone. Fortunately, by taking notice of the above guidelines and tips, you can prevent your child from exposing themselves too much on the Internet, and protect them against numerous risks. After all, you must be mindful of the fact that, as their guardian, you’re both morally and legally responsible for them.
“Identify in good time any situation that’s affecting their physical and mental well-being. Pay attention to their emotions, especially misplaced mood swings after periods of heavy use.”
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- García-Maldonado, G., Joffre-Velázquez, V. M., Martínez-Salazar, G. J., & Llanes-Castillo, A. (2011). Ciberbullying: forma virtual de intimidación escolar. Revista Colombiana de psiquiatría, 40(1), 115-130.
- Un móvil es más que un móvil. (2022). AEPD. https://www.aepd.es/es/mas-que-un-movil