My oldest child is 8.5. Not even 9 yet and I’m already beginning to think about how she may need a phone at some point in the not so distant future. We don’t have a home phone, instead, my husband and I have our own personal smartphones. This means that I taught my daughter to memorize my phone number instead of a home number. The result? I’m getting phone calls to my device from children – kids who want to set up play dates. Ask me how much I love this? I don’t. In fact, I’m the sort of person who hates talking on the phone. I ignore phone calls 99% of the time and instead text or email. Hearing the phone ring makes me cringe. Answering it and hearing a kid looking for my kid and then handing MY device over to her is just…… No.
Plus there’s the issue of her beginning to go to birthday parties and play dates and things without me. What if she needs to contact me? What if there is no phone where she is, just like we don’t have a home phone? What if I want to send her outside to play with a neighbourhood friend and something happens? I remember the old days when I went out to play as a kid and didn’t have a phone on me. I remember falling off my bike and bleeding from the head and touring half the neighborhood before I found someone to help me. Those things are avoidable now but so much else has come into play. Social media, texting and cyber bullying are just a few of the issues kids face now. Phones are no longer simple communication tools. I’ve been doing a lot of research and have talked with my friends at TELUS to get up to speed. Here’s what I found out.
As we head into the holiday shopping season, you may be thinking about buying your child their first smartphone. A cell phone is a big step and not something to do on a whim. Here is a checklist to help you to determine if your child is ready for the responsibility of having his/her own smartphone.
- Has your child used family devices such as tablets, laptops, gaming consoles and computers and has your child respected the rules set out for their use?
- Does your child require phone access for safety or to stay in communication with you in case of emergency?
- Can your child be trusted to use their phone at appropriate times only and not to ‘sneak’ it for use during class etc?
- Have you talked to them about responsible smartphone use and what it looks like regarding social networking and sharing of photos?
If you have covered these questions and can answer yes then your child may be ready for their own smartphone. Before you provide a phone to your child it’s important to talk about safety and responsibilities. Kids are exposed to information from school regarding cyber bullying and good digital citizenship however it is becoming apparent that there is little correlation between the school rules and a child’s behaviour if those rules are not also modeled and laid out at home.
Here are some tips and conversation points for setting the phone up with safety in mind.
- Lock screens – Prevent other’s from logging in and posting to social media or sending text messages as your child as a ‘joke’ by using a lock screen.
- Passwords – Make sure you set a strong password for your child’s device and explain to them the importance of not sharing that information with anyone except you. Ask them to always share their password with you and to never lock you out from their device.
- Geotagging – make sure location services such as geotagging are turned off. Geotagging will tell the exact location a photo has been taken and we don’t always want that information out there.
- Add Contacts – set your child up with ICE contacts (in case of emergency) Add parents, grandparents and any other emergency numbers they might need.
- 911 – make sure your child knows how to call in case of an emergency.
- Driving – if your teen has a licence talk to them about the dangers of distracted driving.
- Search Filters – Access settings for Google and other search apps and activate safe search to reduce the chances of your child accessing upsetting content or images.
Contract – It’s a great idea to set up a document for both of you to sign regarding the rules for smartphone usage. Younger children can be handed a set of rules to abide by and older teens can be involved in creating rules that work for the family. Don’t forget to review it every few months to make sure it is being adhered to. Make adjustments to the document if required.
The most important rule is that your child agrees to speak to you if there is something happening that makes them uncomfortable. No secrets. They must not be afraid of losing access to their smartphone if they come to you for help with a problem.
Here are a few others to include in your contract:
- I will not share personal information without permission from my parent (including name, address, school location, photos etc.)
- I will not visit websites that I think my parents will not approve of.
- I will not share passwords with anyone except my parents.
- I will not arrange to meet a friend I have made on the internet unless my parent approves and goes with me.
- I will ask my parents before downloading apps or opening attachments when I’m not sure that they are safe.
- I will always remember that there are real people on the other side of my screen who can be hurt by my actions.
- I agree to never be mean or cruel over social media networks, even if someone else is mean to me first. If someone is mean to me, I will remember that it is not my fault.
- If I see someone else being mean I will try to help the person being targeted.
- If I am mad because of something I see online I agree to put the phone down and cool off.
- I will not share anything that belongs to someone else without their permission including photos, writing or other creative materials. If I do get permission then I will give other people credit if I use their work or ideas in reports or homework.
- I understand that it is illegal to share explicit photos of someone online without their consent.
- I understand that there is no such thing as private sharing and that any information or images could be accessible to the public at an unforeseen time.
- I will not take nude photos of myself or of anyone else.
- I will not disable any filtering software my parents have activated.
- I will not buy things online without permission.
- I will never use my phone when I am behind the wheel.
I have incorporated these rules into a contract that you can download and use for free. There’s also a space to write out your own additions. Black out any rules that don’t work for you or your child. This is meant to be a conversation starter more than anything!
Videos are a great place to start – especially for younger kids. TELUS has a great set of videos like this one and you can see them all here.
I hope this info helps you decide if your child is ready for a smartphone and if maybe this holiday season is the right time to put one under the tree. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – there’s so much to think about. There are some more places to research smartphone safety below.
To arrange or attend a free safety seminar from TELUS http://wise.telus.com/en/contact/
To arrange a free in person session to get help with settings and safety on your TELUS smartphone http://www.telus.com/en/on/get-help/learning-centre/support.do?INTCMP=Learning-Centre
Web Safety Tips: http://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/
To watch videos about safety, security, information sharing and more http://wise.telus.com/en/videos/
For more contracts and other information http://mediatechparenting.net/contracts-and-agreements
For information on being a good digital citizen: http://www.prevnet.ca/
Because ‘social networks’ are complicated: http://ageekydad.com/2012/09/22/facebook-family-contract/
*as a member of #teamtelus I am provided with products and services so I can best share info and inside tips on what’s sweet with TELUS.