Guide to Smartphones and Safety for Parents

Guide to Smartphones and Safety for Parents

Smartphones are all the talk these days among every age group. From pre-teens to senior citizens, cell phones are being used daily by many individuals all across the globe. But are smartphones really a good idea for children, and how should we know when to say no? As parents, it can be difficult to say no to a smartphone when all of your child’s friends have their own. However, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of letting your child have a smartphone. We’ve all heard the old saying, “all good things in moderation.” This can be true for cell phones when handled properly.

Why is smartphone safety so important?

It’s no surprise that smartphones can cause many problems if your child is given free rein. In fact, children can be even more susceptible to online predators than most adults because they aren’t aware of the dangers of talking with strangers on the internet. Overexposure to cell phone stimulation can also cause health concerns such as lack of sleep, radiation, and more. When you take steps to keep your child safe while using a smartphone, you can help avoid these safety and health concerns. 

Should my child have social media?

It’s one thing to give your child a smartphone, but social media is a completely different ball game. Though social media can be a way for your child to keep up with friends and family, it can also be one of the most dangerous places for them. Many children do not understand the concerns behind predators on the internet and are easily tempted into speaking with strangers. If you allow your child to have social media, we recommend controlling usage time and passwords. 

What are the benefits of my child having a smartphone?

Believe it or not, there are a variety of benefits to giving your child a smartphone. Getting a cell phone is a huge step in your child’s life, so it’s encouraging to know that our children can actually learn many life lessons and skills through the complex nature of smartphones. Here are some of the benefits of children having a smartphone:

Learning to Build Trust

Your children have learned to trust you from the time they were born. However, building trust with them can be difficult without taking leaps of faith. Although giving your child a smartphone can be nerve-wracking, this is a great way to build trust in one another. After discussing rules and expectations with your child, you will see how truthful they are when giving a grand privilege such as a smartphone. 

Emergency Contact Outlet

One of the main reasons many parents choose to give their children a cell phone is safety concerns. Cell phones are a handy tool for emergencies that your child may find themselves in. This concern is typically pushed towards teenagers who are learning to drive and running around with friends. However, some parents feel more at ease when their younger children have a device to contact them in emergencies. If your child is young with a cell phone, you can contact your cell phone provider for information on how to make the phone emergency-use only.

Educational Opportunities

Did you know smartphones and tablets have become incredibly popular outlets for educational opportunities for every age, especially children? In fact, in 2015, there were more than 80,000 educational applications for children available to download. With technology continuously improving, that number has probably drastically increased over the past 5 years. From reading apps to math lessons, you can find almost any educational app you may be looking for. A few popular educational applications for children are:

  • Quick Maths
  • Duolingo
  • Stack the States
  • VocabularySpellingCity
  • Science360

Hitting Milestones

It’s always bittersweet to see our children growing up. However, it can be a fun and exciting time to see your child hitting huge milestones in their life, such as getting their first cell phone. As your child grows and matures, it’s times like these that you will remember forever. 

READ MORE: Mapping Milestones →

5 Smartphone Security Tips Every Parent Needs to Know

Thankfully, there are so many online resources available to you for smartphone security tips and recommendations. With thousands of parents looking for ways to protect their children on smartphones, research and development have progressed to keep our most vulnerable age group safe on the internet.

1. Have the hard conversations.

First, it’s vitally important to have hard conversations with your child. This means sitting down with them and explaining the dangers of using a smartphone, the rules you’ve set in place, and the consequences they will receive if disobeyed. Your child may not be excited about this conversation in the moment, but it will help them in the long run.

2. Download parental control apps.

Fortunately for all parents, there have been different types of applications and software developed for our children's safety and peace of mind of us parents. If you are hesitant to let your child use a smartphone, parental control apps can help take a little bit of that worry away. Many of these applications allow you to control which apps can be used throughout each day. Some well-known parental control apps include:

  • Boomerang
  • Qustodio
  • Net Nanny

3. Set passwords.

Passwords are an important part of keeping any of your devices safe from hackers or other dangerous third parties. When you and your child know passwords, you can feel a bit less uneasy about others having control over their smartphone. 

4. Limit screen time.

Did you know that over 40% of children spend 30+ hours every week on their cell phones? Though that may only mean a few hours each day, those hours exposed to stimulation add up quickly for your child’s brain. Before giving your child a smartphone, it’s important to set a specific amount of time for smartphone use each day. This may be broken up into different categories like text messages, facetime calls, games, education, and more.

5. Teach cell phone etiquette.

Overall, if your child knows proper cell phone etiquette, they will be able to use their cell phone more efficiently and safely. Whether you are at home or in public, cell phone etiquette is an important lesson to learn from the get-go. A few simple exercises to implement are:

  • Turn cell phones off in quiet places (libraries, hospitals, public transportation)
  • Decrease cell phone use at school
  • Ask permission to take photos
  • Ignore phone calls from unknown numbers
  • Avoid posting locations

Parent Resources at Pediatrics East

We know parenting can be difficult and overwhelming at times. Smartphone usage for your children can be a scary milestone to reach, but it doesn’t have to be so bad with these tips and tricks for safety precautions. From building trust to learning etiquette, smartphones can teach your child many lessons they may not learn elsewhere. At Pediatrics East, we are passionate about providing tools for parents like you who are looking for an extra resource to use. Check out all of our parent resources, or contact us today for more information and recommendations.

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