What Age Should You Get Your Kids Mobile Phones and How to Keep Them Safe?

I always said that I’ll never give my kids mobile phones before they become teenagers. I was even constantly bashing my friends for doing so, but all this changed when we got kids of our own, and I realized the pressure parents face on the topic.

I always said that I’ll never give my kids mobile phones before they become teenagers. I was even constantly bashing my friends for doing so, but all this changed when we got kids of our own, and I realized the pressure parents face on the topic.

If you decided to give your child a connected device, then make sure you are in total control and constantly monitoring your little one. It’s a big, dangerous virtual world out there, and you don’t want to send them all alone unprotected. Here are some tips to help you make a safer decision:

Which Devices Are Suitable For Your Child?

I am an Apple user myself. For me, Apple is always a safer choice when it comes to children. Of course, you can set parental control on Android and create users for your kids to give them limited access on apps and content. But still, the many combined features on Apple provide a full hands-on parental control experience. We’ll be covering Android in a later post.

Ages 2–6

iPad: I prefer the iPad more than the iPad Mini as it has a big interactive surface for those little clumsy fingers, larger screen which makes it easier on the eyes, and plenty of educational and entertaining apps on the store. You can also find many child-proof covers that most importantly protect the children from hurting themselves, make it easy for them to hold the device and reduce the risk of getting the device broken from the guaranteed falls to come.

Ages 7–12

iPod Touch: Many kids this age become more mobile and independent, they are on the move, they go out with family members, they want something easier to carry around, smaller and cooler. The iPod looks and feels like a smartphone but it comes without mobile cellular connection, only WI-FI. This is important because your kids can only connect to a secure and monitored network. Without a mobile number, nobody can call your child or chat (Whatsapp) with them behind your back. With Parental control, you can pre-approve your child’s address book and messaging contacts to make sure they only contact / Facetime / iMessage people you approve.

Old is Gold: (Get a GSM Mobile Handset)
Whether your child has after-school activity, is invited to spend a day-out with friends, or is sleeping over at a family member’s house, there are times when you need to make sure that your child has constant access to a phone and can call you anytime. The best solution is to give them a temporary mobile access for the duration of the trip. The trick is to avoid giving them a smartphone.

The solution is simple, invest in an “old school” GSM mobile phone equipped with a prepaid SIM card capable of voice calls and SMS only (the $20 Nokia would do). The phone is to be kept at home at all times and only provided to your kids whenever they have an outing.

Ages 13+
If you haven’t purchased a mobile phone for your kid by now then you’ve got superpowers, I salute you ? Dealing with teenagers is tricky since they are technically savvy.

Here are a few things to remember:

– Restrict adult content by enabling parental control or restrictions on the device itself and on the home WI-FI network.
– Enable Find My iPhone in order to track the whereabouts of your child.
– Limit screen time, especially at night and in their bedrooms. Make sure they use their devices in the family rooms.
– Make sure you talk to your kids about the risks of sharing confidential information about their home, family and friends.
– Make sure that your kids don’t take sensitive photos (private parts) and share them with friends.
– Always be aware of their latest password and constantly check their devices for inappropriate photos, chats and apps.
– Talk to your kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate content online, and why it’s important to steer clear of the dark areas of the web.
– Monitor your kids for any sudden change in mobile behavior, change of password, hiding the device, etc.

Set Up The Device Yourself And Create An Apple ID For Your Kids:
When you purchase a device, take it out of the box and set it up yourself. Every device requires an Apple ID for it to work properly. On the device, create an Apple ID specific for your child and save the username and password. You can prevent your kids from changing them in the parental controls. However, children under 13 are not allowed to have an Apple ID without a parental consent and without being part of a family plan.

Note: Never login with your apple ID on other devices, your pictures and messages will show up on those devices as well.

Create A Family Plan:
As the family administrator, activate the family plan on your iPhone and add all your family members, this is really helpful on several fronts:

– You don’t need to issue several credit cards to be allocated to each of the users. You can have one credit card on the main admin account and all the family members will be able to use this card to make online purchases.
– Your kids won’t be making any downloads and purchases without your approval. Every download, purchase, or in-app purchase will need parent/guardian approval before it happens. The parent receives a notification on their device asking for approval on behalf of the child, you can approve or reject.
– The family members can also benefit from apps that are already purchased on different accounts without having to purchase them once again, you can simply re-download these apps for free on the different family accounts.

Activate Parental Controls:
Make sure to activate the parental control feature or restrictions on your kids’ devices and protect it with an admin password. Doing so will give you peace of mind making sure your kids are safely using the device as they will have:

– Limited access to apps, they cannot download an app without your approval, your next phone/credit card bill won’t arrive jam-packed with surprise app purchases,
– No Access to adult-related content, it can be blocked depending on age of the child and will show age appropriate content.
– Controlled chat environment: One of the greatest threats kids face is chatting with complete strangers and pedophiles. With parental control you can prevent your kids from contacting someone who is not on the safe contact list.
– No or limited Internet access, of course depending on your internet allowance quota.

All in all, we should not fear technology, we should embrace and be on top of it. Yes, we live in a different era, we can no longer raise our kids the way we were raised and act as if these devices don’t exist. In the next 20 years, 50% of the future jobs will be ones that don’t currently exist. We need our kids to be on top of trends, technically savvy, connected with the world and most important connected with us.

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