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The first smartphone

3 minutes reading time
6-17 years
© photothek.net

When is my child actually old enough to have his or her own smartphone? It is not easy to give an answer to the question that is valid for every child. This is because, in addition to the usefulness of the smartphone, your child’s stage of development also plays a role in the decision. They know it best and can assess its media experience and general sense of responsibility.

A checklist helps with the decision

If you’re considering whether your child is ready for his or her own smartphone, here are a few things to think about:

  • Has my child had experience using someone else’s smartphone (e.g., mother, brother, or uncle) on occasion?
  • Does my child know that personal information exists and what it means?
  • Can my child understand that a cell phone (may) incur costs, e.g., in-app purchases via games?
  • Does my child know that there are rules on the Internet, too, e.g. when communicating in chats?
  • Can my child understand that security settings and app permissions exist and what they are good for?

klicksafe has compiled these and other questions in a checklist for parents to tick off. If you are unsure, your child can first use a very simple cell phone without Internet access. Sooner or later, however, you should allow your child to have their own smartphone.

The right time for the first smartphone

For many parents, the move from elementary to secondary school is an opportune time to purchase a smartphone. Many children then have a longer way to school, which they often do alone. They can quickly make contact via a cell phone or smartphone – if necessary.

Constant accessibility between you and your child should not be the main reason for a smartphone. For older children and young people in particular, probably the most important reason for having their own smartphone is to keep in touch with their friends and to have a say, for example, when it comes to the latest apps. Peer influence plays an increasingly important role as people age.

Challenges of digital communication

Teach your child that it is important to be careful and aware of how you handle your own data. Talk about what serious problems might otherwise result. Inform yourself or together with your child about data protection and safety on the Internet. Discuss together which apps your daughter or son is allowed to use and which not for now. Pay attention to age ratings of apps and enable security settings on the device.

Conflicts, e.g. disputes, can also sometimes degenerate much more quickly via communication on the Internet and false information can be spread more easily – your child should be aware of this. You should discuss problems such as chain letters, sexting, and cyberbullying in detail.

Tips for safe use of the first smartphone

Your child’s smartphone doesn’t have to come with a flat-rate contract. Depending on the provider, a monthly decision can be made as to whether there should be a data volume for the Internet and how large it is. It is also possible to have a warning displayed when a certain amount of data is used. This way, your child will notice how much the cell phone is actually used. Settings in the smartphone can also create awareness of screen time. For more tips on which apps you can use to make your child’s cell phone use safer, check out our post on this.

It can also be helpful to consult with other parents. Because most of the time, they face the same questions. Most importantly, you should guide your child in their media use and educate them about potential challenges and risks. Even before deciding to get your own smartphone, talk to your child about it.

Try to lead by example. Also, explain to your child if you have concerns and agree on rules for using the device.

It’s important to stay in the conversation and regularly address decisions for or against certain apps and negotiate new arrangements. Don’t abuse your child’s trust by secretly checking the cell phone – a frank conversation is the better way.

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