For children, getting their first smartphone is really exciting. For parents, not so much.
A smartphone can provide its user with a huge level of independence, as well as unlimited access to almost every bit of information from the course of human history! It sounds frightening, doesn’t it?
Smartphones are very much part and parcel of modern everyday life. One survey suggests a quarter of UK children under the age of six have a smartphone. Your son or daughter are going to ask for one at some point, if they haven’t already! Luckily, it is possible to help your children use a smartphone safely.
If you’re at a stage where you’re considering buying your child a new device but feel slightly anxious about what they’ll do with it, we’ve come up with some top tips to help you guide them toward sensible and healthy phone use.
1 Set boundaries
Sarah Berman, a trainer at the mental health charity Young Minds, believes one important ground rule must be established before the phone is given. She suggests: “‘My top tip if you’re a parent giving a phone or device for the first time is that it should be switched off in the evening and charged downstairs, not in bedrooms.”
This is great advice. It will prevent your child from staring at their phone until the early hours of the morning and make sure their bedroom remains a sanctuary from the lure of YouTube and Snapchat updates. The blue LED light from phone screens affects your ability to fall asleep, so even if they eventually put it on silent, they’ll struggle to nod off.
We find that no phones an hour before bed is a good routine to stick to.
2 Talk about it
Social media can put pressure on people no matter their age. It can make us feel like we aren’t looking or behaving in the way that we should. On top of this, it can inundate us with thinking we are missing out and this can be particularly detrimental to teenagers, for example seeing their friends hanging out without them.
In fact, a study by the University of Sheffield revealed that children who spend more time on social networks feel less happy in almost all aspects of their lives. So, what can we do to prevent this?
The best thing to do is to chat to your children about these issues. Have them question whether a social media post is a true reflection of someone’s life. Ask them to consider if missing out is always such a bad thing. This will hopefully mean they can turn to you if they’re worried about it.
3 Build trust
If you are active on social media, it’s ok to send your child a friend request or hit follow. However, don’t get upset if they decline or even block you.
It’s probably that they don’t want you following them on Instagram or Snapchat for the same reasons they don’t want you to join them for lunch at school: it’s a space for friends, not parents.
It’s important to develop trust, so keep talking instead. Be interested in what they are doing online. Ask what games they are playing and YouTuber they idolise. That’s if you can pull them away from Fortnite!
If you are really concerned, it is always best to talk to them first.
4 Screen time
Rather than setting limits on screen time, set incentives on earning it. For example, finishing a few chores around the house could earn 30 more minutes on their phone after they get home from school.
5 Parental locks
Along with keeping phones out of the bedroom and limiting screen time, take advantage of parental locks.
Many phones have settings that will deny access to harmful content. Don’t be afraid to use them. Of course, given the online literacy of young people, this might not always do the trick. But it definitely acts as a deterrent.
So, our advice is to always be willing to discuss social media and internet use with your child. Ask them how it makes them feel and work together to tackle any worries or concerns they may have.
You cannot keep them from owning a phone forever, but you can help them use it in a positive way.
For more advice and support, speak to Aysha at the Odara Support Network.