“Mom, Dad, can I have a smartphone?” If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve heard this question before. Studies show that 78% of teens own cell phones, and with 2014 newly upon us, many parents will be deciding whether their child is ready to be the proud owner of a mobile phone this year.
Giving your child their first phone is a big step – it means they’re growing up! As such, it presents an opportunity for you and your child to sit down and establish mobile security guidelines and boundaries that keep them and their devices safe.
So when can your child handle a mobile phone and the responsibilities that come with it?
Most can agree there is no single answer that is right for every parent and every child. In our previous “Generation Smartphone: A Guide for Parents of Tweens and Teens” study, we found the age varies. 22% of parents felt age 10 was an appropriate age for children to get their first phone, while 43% of the total answers fell within the 10 to 12 age range.
Although it’s up to each individual family to decide when a child is ready for their first phone, I can advise you of some things you can do to make sure your kids (at any age) are keeping their mobile lives safe.
Talk about it: Discuss the most important terms of agreement for the new smartphone or tablet: your family’s terms of agreement! The best time to tackle this is while the device is still in the box, before they’re off downloading the latest version of Draw Something or Candy Crush. Educate your child about tempting online offers, free downloads and bad links they may come across. Check out Lookout’s printable Phone Rules Agreement, which sets mobile security ground rules for your child and their new smartphone.
Keep away from cyber strangers: Teach your kids to ignore emails and text messages from unknown people. In other words, tell your kids not to talk to digital strangers.
Set a passcode: Help your child come up with a passcode that you both can remember. A passcode is your first line of defense against unauthorized third parties. On most phones it’s easy to set the password and lock settings. If you have an iPhone, click “Settings” > “General” and scroll down to “Passcode”. If you have an Android, click “Settings” > “Security”.
Guide kids to make smart downloads: Have your child run desired app downloads by you for your approval to make sure the app is made by a reputable developer. Even better, only download apps from trusted sources, like the Apple Store and Google Play. Introduce your kids to educational and helpful apps, helping to create a balanced mobile world.
Teach them to surf safely: Just because your child appears to be digitally savvy, logging many more hours online than you, don’t assume they’ve got it all under control. Ensure that your child understands the risks of surfing the mobile Web - it’s a computer too after all. Smaller screen sizes make it harder to discern fraudulent sites. Sometimes people fall prey to “phishing” attacks by putting their details into fake apps or websites. Make sure your child isn’t visiting sites they don’t recognize and ask them to check in with you before visiting questionable sites.
Download a mobile security app to protect your investment: As you’re setting up your child’s phone (or as your teen is setting up their device), be sure to download a mobile security app like Lookout, so they’ll be automatically protected from downloading bad apps and visiting unsafe websites that can ruin the phone or compromise personal data and privacy. You’re never too young to have Lookout protecting your mobile experience.
Cover image courtesy of Pixaby.