As useful as it is, the internet can be a scary and unforgiving place, especially for kids. Entrusting your child with their first smartphone may provoke anxiety in even the most steely-nerved parent. How do you make sure your child is safe online without overprotecting them and depriving them of life’s experiences?
Making an effort to keep your child safe will protect them from the worst technology has to offer while highlighting the benefits. Here are five ways you can make your kid’s smartphone experience safer.
Use Technology Built for Kids
Not every piece of technology is designed with kids in mind. Many tech safety features intended to keep kids safe can also make tech less under-friendly for adults. Your best bet is to start your child off with a cell phone for kids. This will help them learn their way around the internet safely before upgrading them to a standard smartphone.
There are several options on the market, including Gabb Wireless’s smartphone for kids. The device has no internet and is not enabled for social media. The phone has plenty of useful apps that make the device an asset. Plus, your kids will be able to connect with you better than ever before through talk and text.
A smartphone like this is a great starter device while easing your child into internet safety on other shared devices. Having a starter device allows your child to gain confidence with technology and practice responsible phone use.
Then you can help them learn how to surf the internet safely on your shared devices with an internet connection. Highlight the positive uses of the internet. That way, when they do have a Wi-Fi device, they’ll gravitate toward safe sites and apps.
Enable Parental Controls
Even if they’re not built specifically for kids, most mobile devices have parental controls you can enable. These controls prevent kids from accessing adult content and apps. Enabling parental controls on all of the family devices may be a good idea to keep your kids safe online.
Parental controls come with a PIN code or a password that you should not share with your child. With this code, parents can change the settings of a phone to make it more kid-friendly. A popular use of parental controls is to filter the types of searchable content. This limits their exposure to images and videos that may be inappropriate.
If you want a more hands-on approach to parental guidance, there are a number of downloadable apps to consider. With these apps, you can limit daily phone usage, set downtime periods, and track how the phone is being used. Be careful about coming on too strong, though, or you’ll lose trust by appearing too controlling.
Take Control of Downloads
The app store is an alluring place, and it deserves a special mention when talking about parental controls. With so many apps and games to choose from, kids can spend hours just scrolling through the options.
Not all apps are created equal, and some intervention will steer them away from apps designed for more mature audiences. Parents should be just as vigilant when choosing apps as they would be with websites.
YouTube provides an excellent example. While there’s useful and entertaining content on the platform, you can also find plenty of foul language and adult themes.
You can set up search features that help filter out some inappropriate content or use YouTube Kids as an alternative. While not infallible, this version of YouTube has additional parental features like timers, more access filters, and search history tools.
Go into your app store settings to restrict other downloads. This way, you can vet download attempts to make sure the app is something worthwhile and safe for your child.
Establish No-Tech Zones
Your child may run the highest risk of stumbling across something dangerous on the internet when they’re not being supervised. To limit the possibility of this happening, establish no-tech zones in your home. This way, if your child ever encounters something shady on the internet, you’re not far away.
Bedrooms are the number one no-tech zone parents should consider. There’s a lot of temptation to use an electronic device during the late hours of the night.
Curiosity often gets the best of innocent young kids when no one’s around to guide them. Talk with your child about keeping their phone out of the bedroom. Answer any questions they have regarding a rule that will likely be unpopular.
Other no-tech zones can be established for the same or different reasons. For example, many families don’t allow phones at the table so the family can focus on spending quality time together. If you’d prefer, set no-tech times such as after dark or during school hours when smartphone use should be limited.
Make Them Share
Do you have two children at similar ages? Consider letting them share their very first smartphone. Be prepared for the complaints that will come in the name of unfairness. Stick to your guns if you feel like this is the best decision for your family.
When two siblings are sharing a smartphone, they will hold each other accountable for their usage. There might be some tattling, but at least you know your kids are watching out for each other. This way, you don’t have to monitor usage closely, and they can slowly work up to earning their own devices.
There’s no way to keep your child innocent and sheltered forever. However, there are better ways to ease them into the world of the internet to keep them as safe as possible. They’ll be happier and healthier thanks to your guidance.