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The first smartphone

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

Chatting with friends, being active on social media, expressing themselves creatively – the smartphone opens up a new world for children. Many parents ask themselves: “When is my child old enough to have their own smartphone?”. This question is not easy to answer. This is because the child’s stage of development plays a key role in the decision.

The right time for the first smartphone

The change from elementary school to secondary school is a suitable time for many parents to purchase a smartphone. Many children have a long journey to school, which they often have to make alone. They can make contact quickly via a cell phone or smartphone. Constant availability should not be the main reason. For older children and teenagers in particular, the most important reason for having their own smartphone is to keep in touch with their friends. They want to be part of it and have a say when it comes to the latest apps and social media trends.

A checklist helps with the decision

Are you wondering whether your child is ready for their own smartphone? Then you should think about these things:

  • 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 security settings and app permissions exist and what they are good for?
  • 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 also rules online, e.g. when communicating in group chats?

klicksafe has compiled these and other questions in a checklist for parents to tick off. Go through the checklist alone or together with your child. The more points you tick, the more ready your child is for their own smartphone. However, you know them best and can assess their media experience and sense of responsibility. For younger children, a cell phone without Internet access may be suitable at first. Sooner or later, however, you should allow your child to have their own smartphone.

Surfing, posting and chatting – the challenges of smartphone use

Access to the Internet holds a lot of potential for your child, but also risks:

You can find out how you can protect your child from sexual violence on the Internet in this klicksafe brochure.

Select and set up a device

Choose your first smartphone carefully and take costs and features into account. A used cell phone can be a good choice. Take your time to set up your smartphone. Pay attention to age ratings of apps and enable security settings on the device. Discuss together which apps your child can and cannot use for the time being. A prepaid contract and not a flat rate may be sufficient at the beginning. This will teach your child how much they actually use their cell phone and how to use mobile data and WLAN appropriately. Settings in the smartphone can also create awareness of screen time. You can find more tips on how to make your child’s cell phone use safer in our article on this topic.

Tips for safe use of the first smartphone

Accompany your child as they take their first steps with their smartphone. Always inform your child about possible risks. Even before deciding to get your own smartphone, talk to your child about it. It can also be helpful to consult with other parents. Because most of the time, they face the same questions.

Establish common rules for media use that all family members adhere to. Keep an eye on your child’s usage times and signs of digital stress.

Find out about child-friendly offers and apps, such as the fragFINN app. You can find pedagogical assessments for mobile games at Spieleratgeber NRW.

Try to lead by example. Don’t abuse your child’s trust by secretly checking the cell phone – a frank conversation is the better way. If you are unsure or serious problems arise, contact educational professionals such as school social workers or contact (online)counseling centers.

Child-friendly information can help children get to grips with the topic. The “Genial digital” magazine from the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk (DKHW) provides children aged 8 to 11 with information about the internet and their first smartphone in a fun way.

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