Our guest blogger today is from SafetyWeb, a new service that helps parents monitor their child’s online activities and provides useful resources about online and mobile safety. For more information about SafetyWeb, visit www.safetyweb.com.
Keeping a child safe at any age can be a challenge, but parents of 8-10 year olds can often feel like they have their hands full.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children between the ages of 6-8 have developed a new sense of “independence away from the family, an awareness of the future, and a growing desire to be liked by friends.” Additionally, the CDC says that children between the ages of 9-11 “experience more peer pressure.” These factors play into a parent’s ability to both provide nurturing and enforce discipline when it comes to introducing their child to technology.
What is the most appropriate age to give your child a cell phone? That answer is up for debate, but we can tell you that 22% of children between the ages of 6 and 9 already have their own cell phones, according to the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH). This is a rapid increase from years past, so if you decide to give your child a phone, we want to help you to keep them as safe as possible.
Some companies, like FireFly and Kajeet, offer cell phones specifically designed for children and come with free parental controls built-in to the service plan as an added bonus. Other parents may simply offer a phone that fits into their family’s phone plan and utilizes their existing carrier.
The nation’s most popular cell phone carriers come with parental controls that parents can enable, including AT&T’s Smart Limits, Verizon’s Parental Control Center, Sprint’s Parental Controls, and T-Mobile’s Family Allowances.
Some carriers also offer kid-friendly phones, like Verizon’s LG Migo which does not include voicemail, but does have a special emergency key and allows parents to program up to four numbers.
The Firefly glowPhone does have voicemail but not a whole lot else except for a programmable numbers to call home. The Tic Talk mobile phone comes with a few educational games from LeapFrog and can also call preselected numbers.
Lastly, owners of the popular Android phones can use a new app called Zoodles which once loaded, puts your device into “Kid Mode.” The program provides free educational games, videos, puzzles and more for children ages 8 and under, and protects your child from accessing anything else on your Android. This new app can be a great way to introduce a young child to a cell phone without actually letting him/her run wild with it.
Regardless of what you choose for your child, it’s important to begin instilling mobile safety ideas early. Here are some starting points:
- Just like opening the door to strangers, teach your kids to only answer phone calls of people they know.
- If your child does have a phone, explain that they must answer calls from you or your spouse immediately.
- Set ground rules early. As soon as you present the phone (or in preparation of doing so), explain that owning one is a privilege and comes added responsibility. As the parent, you have the right to take the device away at any time.