By Zaheer Khan, a specialist in technology related security, an idealist but most of all indulges with computers, apps and new phones when not running around with his Light Saber and his kids through the parks of JoBurg
Children and young people have always been keen to grasp the opportunities offered by new technologies, and mobile phones are certainly no exception.
So, what is an appropriate age to buy your child a cell phone? More importantly is it safe for children to use and what are the long term effects on them.
Buying a cellphone for under 12 yr olds makes no sense because:
I am not opposed to limited usage of a borrowed parents’ or siblings’ phone. Parents who see a specific need to introduce it to their children earlier should take precautions to ensure that it becomes a tool and not just a toy that becomes abused
Ways to Introduce a cellphone responsibly :
If a child wants their own phone, let them enter into a contract with a service provider and take responsibility for paying the monthly fee until the contract expires. Make it clear that the payments continue until the end of the contract even if the phone is lost or broken. The phone can also be used as a disciplining tool where its privileges are taken away while the responsibility of paying the bill still continues.
Be aware of the risks involved which include:
Use parental controls
Computers and other digital technologies like games consoles and mobile phones have parental controls. These let you do things like:
Check the equipment’s user manual or manufacturers’ websites to see what controls you have access to. Contact your internet service provider (ISP) or mobile phone operator to find out about any child safety measures they offer
Setting rules with your child
The best way to set reasonable rules for your child’s phone use is to :
- Inappropriate behaviour ie being on the phone when having a guest over, or texting at the dinner table
- use of abusive or threatening language in any online communication
To keep your child safe you should tell them not to:
Parents should also remember that most smart phones are doors to the internet and that any risks posed by the internet similarly apply to cellphones as well.
We need to rely on our kids to teach us about the dangers facing their generation (technology and otherwise) – we teach them the basic values and morals, they teach us about technology, and together we figure out how to bring our values and morals to the new technology/situations in a way that is reasonable and not overly restrictive