“Can I have a smartphone for Christmas?”
That may be the request many parents of young children are getting this festive season. And the question “to get or not to get” may not be one that is easy to answer.
While the advancement in smartphone technology has brought about much convenience, it has also contributed to issues such as excessive device use or easy access to inappropriate content for children. How then can parents know if their child is ready for their first smartphone? TOUCH Cyber Wellness sheds some light on this topic.
CONSIDER THE S.M.A.R.T. FACTORS
Often, parents ask what the ideal age for smartphone ownership is. However, knowing when your child is ready to own a smartphone goes beyond just a number. Instead, we encourage parents to consider the five SMART factors before deciding if their child is ready for a smartphone.
PREPARING YOUR CHILD FOR THEIR FIRST SMARTPHONE
Parents should also play a part in preparing their child to be a responsible smartphone owner. Scaffold your child’s experience by starting small and setting clear and tight boundaries pertaining to device usage. These boundaries can slowly be expanded when your child shows that they are trustworthy and responsible.
Here are some simple steps to get parents started on preparing their child for their first smartphone.
- Meet the needs, not the wants
Start with a basic and affordable smartphone so your child would be able to perform necessary functions such as making calls and sending text messages. You may also consider giving your child a SIM card instead of a full mobile plan so what your child can do with the smartphone is somewhat limited to the basic needs such as making calls and sending text messages.
- Set a phone use contract with your child
The contract should include the following:
- Who paid for the smartphone
- Who the smartphone owner is
- Who should be held accountable if the contract is broken
- Who should know the password
- What happens if the smartphone is damaged or lost
- When smartphone use is allowed or not allowed
It is also important to set boundaries together with your child so that it is clear to him/her what is or not allowed. For example, if your child has hit the amount of screen time stated in the contract, remind him/her of the limit that both of you have mutually agreed upon.
- Introduce phone features and what is allowed and not allowed
Setting aside time to introduce the various phone features and briefing your child on appropriate usage gives you the opportunity to demonstrate proper and positive use of a smartphone.
- Set up monitoring features
It is important to install monitoring apps so that you are able to supervise your child’s device use. Having a clear idea of your child’s device usage allows you to step in or intervene in a timely manner when necessary.
Ultimately, the decision to give your child their first smartphone requires action from both parent and child. While some children may seem to fulfil the SMART factors, parents should still lay the groundwork to prepare them for healthy and responsible device use.
TOUCH Cyber Wellness (TCW) is a pioneer and leading non-profit agency that champions cyber wellness and media literacy education in Singapore. Since 2001, TCW has reached more than 320 schools and one million youths, parents, educators and counsellors through its education, advocacy and intervention efforts.
Want to know more on the latest online trends that may be affecting your child? Need to speak with an expert on your child’s mobile device usage habits? Get in touch with TOUCH Cyber Wellness here or call the TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm) to speak with a counsellor.