When you got your child a cell phone, he entered a large number of under 18 children who own a phone. For your child, getting a cell phone was another achievement unlocked. He joined the ranks of 56% of kids in the age bracket of 8-12 who have a phone. If your child doesn’t fall into this group, then he probably bonded with 88% of teens with a cell phone.
At this point, your child’s excitement may be worth the dollars you spent on the gadget. But the story doesn’t end here. It has only just begun. You might expect that you would now be able to call and check on your child’s whereabouts. True, there are multiple benefits of a smartphone. But the cons, in some cases, outweigh the pros.
Think about that cyberbullying, the inappropriate web content available, the numerous hours of screen time, sexting, and more. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, here are some measures for keeping your kids safe:
- Don’t agree to a phone so early
Your child’s pleas for a phone can be melting your heart already. But, it is safe to not give in to the request if your child is too young for it. There is no guilt in it also. Because in the long haul, this is for your kid’s safety.
At a young age, your child is not able enough to shoulder the responsibility. There is a lot to consider before the final ‘yes.’ For instance, ask yourself if your child is ready for a phone and can follow the defined rules that you set? Likewise, question yourself if he can stay away from content or apps that you prohibit him to.
The director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Harvard University, Dr. Michael Rich, believes the same. Rich opines, “We have basically let kids be in an environment where they have free rein but don’t have the brain development to manage that in ways that are safe and healthy.”
- Set up a deal before getting the phone
This might sound like over-parenting, but you can only agree to your kid’s request if he accedes to your terms. Seal the deal only if your child accepts the rules that you set. This is a mandatory step that if not taken may lead to unfortunate regret.
Work out a phone-contract by taking several factors into consideration. This includes the hours that your child is to dedicate to using a phone. A study by Neilson Mobile revealed that American teens exchange an average of 3,339 texts in a month. This accounts for 6 plus texts per hour, which needs strict supervision since your child needs to study too.
Similarly, according to Pew Research, 1 in 3 teens have texted while they are driving. Research also shows that sexting is prevalent with 20-30% of teens having sexted. Another study discusses that most of the young kids are not aware of the legal consequences of this act. It is the responsibility of the parents to address all these matters and set parameters to ensure children safety with phones.
- Keep track
Even if you feel that you can trust your child for staying within the boundaries, you should still keep a watchful eye. There are lots of software tools that can help you with this. One such is KidPhone Advocate. It helps you to keep tabs on your kids’ calls and messages as well as assists you in locating the phone. You can also deactivate your child’s phone if he tries to drive and text together behind your back.
You should also check your child’s phone bills. This is essential so that you can teach your child to stay within a budget limit. This also helps to control in-app purchases. It holds a child from carelessly downloading paid apps that lure in kids on the pretext of being brain games. As it is, Braintests apps are being detected for their inefficiency.
- Protect your child from explicit content
Explicit content eventually reaches your child. Smartphones catalyze this by facilitating children with easy access to such material. Talking, educating, and controlling are some measures that you can take in this regard.
It is critical that you talk and educate your child on this issue. A study highlighted that nearly 28% girls and 53% boys viewed sexually explicit content. The same study also pointed out that the most popular way to get access to such material was the Internet. Hence, educating your kids against porn is essential.
At the same time, you can ask your kids to use a safe search engine for surfing the web. If your child is not much of a tech-savvy, you are in luck. You can inspect your kid’s browser search history to check the sites that he occasionally visits. Operating systems afford various parental controls as well. These allow you to prescribe timers on the sites that your child can use.
- Protect your kid against cyberbullies
Excessive exposure to social media affects your child’s mental health. In fact, when it comes to mental wellbeing, there are lots of factors that need acknowledgment including Alzheimer’s hereditary nature. In all these factors, cyberbullying can accelerate a child’s mental wellness.
The issue isn’t something to take lightly too since 87% of youngsters have witnessed cyberbullying. Your protective measures should start with talking with your child specifically on online matters regularly. Ask your kids to share their online profiles with them and identify any signs of bullying.
Moreover, foster trust with your kid so that he opens up against anything unusual online. Explain your reasons for protectiveness to your child and instruct him against responding to any online comments or threats. If your child has already been victimized by cyber bullies, be supportive and involve law enforcement if need be.
In a nutshell, these are some effective steps for ensuring your child’s safety on a cell phone. After all, being a parent, it is crucial to ensure that your kid uses the device safely.