One of the most common questions asked by parents at our parent seminars in schools throughout the country relates to what age is the right age to allow a child to have a smartphone? Smartphones can open up a whole new world to your child in very positive ways such as teaching them about using technology, teaching them new ways of communication. However, there is of course another side to the introduction of a smartphone, children really do need to be mature enough to negotiate the online world in order to stay safe if they are using a smartphone. This is particularly true for children who are using a smartphone for the first time.

The first and most important thing to remember is that you know your own child better than anyone else. You are best able to gage their level of maturity and their ability to be able to handle a smartphone. Children can be very susceptible to peer pressure where wanting a smartphone is concerned, seeing their friends get a phone and feeling that they too should have one. Pester power can undoubtedly come into play here too!  Ultimately only you as a parent know when the time is right to consider allowing your child to have a smartphone, helping to ensure that they stay safe while using the phone is the next challenge.

Starting a conversation about internet safety at the earliest possible age gives your child a solid foundation when they start using a smartphone. In a recent interview with the ‘Irish Times’, Zeeko CEO and Founder suggested that educating children about internet safety should be considered in a similar way to teaching children the safe cross code, for safely crossing the road. It’s really never too early to start a conversation about staying safe online. Another way to test out how your child would handle having a smartphone, is to allow some time online under you or another adults supervision. Before they go online remind your child about the Stop, Block Tell Rule, and also about the T-Shirt Rule too. The T-Shirt rule is particularly effective in explaining the importance of being careful what children post online. Children particularly, if they have  freedom online that is new to them, may easily forget that what they post online cannot be easily removed or permanently deleted.  It’s really easy to get distracted by all the functions available on a smartphone even as an adult, so imagine how that could be distracting for a child.

Safety settings are now an integral part of smartphones, be they android or iPhone, make sure that you have activated these settings on all of the digital devices your children have access to. While safety settings are not a 100% guarantee of safety while online, they are certainly a good first step in helping to keep your child safe online. We have a number of videos on safety settings on the Zeeko YouTube Channel.

The reality is that smartphones can be the first introduction to the online world for children. It is up to you as their parent when you feel they are ready to negotiate their way through this world and stay safe while online.