What topped your Christmas list when you were a kid?
If you’re anything like me, Mork and Mindy dolls would have been the front runners. But fast forward a few (ahem) decades and my mini-me daughter is begging for her own smartphone – and she’s not alone. New research from Telstra shows 45% of kids want a smartphone this Christmas.
The pleas for digital devices are likely to leave many parents asking a lot of questions, like: When is the right time to make that first phone purchase for your child? Do I know enough about keeping them safe and smart online? How can I make 24/7 connection work for my family? Will they blow their data and hit my hip pocket?
If you are one of the 45% of parents thinking about stashing a smartphone under the tree for your teen or tween this December, here are some top tips to get off on the right foot:
- Get in agreeance: Before handing over the phone, get together with your child and set out some mutual ground rules on paper that you can both sign up to. This way, you’re both officially on record, so if things go a bit pear-shaped, you can always revisit the agreement. We’ve made a fun Christmas First Smartphone Agreement that parents can either use as their family guidelines or as inspiration for their own set of ground rules.
- Do some eLearning: Since 12 is now the most common age for kids to get a smartphone, it goes without saying there’s not a lot of life experience in their tank. If you’re not feeling confident about helping your child stay safe and smart online, you’re in good company – nearly a quarter of parents share this concern. Get an understanding of healthy device habits by researching topics like digital safety, security features and parental controls – you’ll feel clued up in no time.
- Be an offline supporter: Before your child disappears into their pocket screen, have a quick chat to remind them that their digital activities shouldn’t replace real-life interactions. Nearly a third of parents worry about balancing screen time, and the best way to deal with this issue is to agree on the time each day when the whole family unplugs – that’s the time when ALL smartphones go to sleep, preferably in a box, and definitely not stashed in bedrooms. It’s important you lead by example here to show kids that parents are playing by the rules too.
- Be part of the digital journey: Roughly 70% of us touch base with our kids via smartphone at least once a day, every day and we’re using everything from texts and phone calls, to social media and instant messaging platforms to do so. Your child’s first phone is also a first for you, opening up a new and fun type of sharing between you and your child. Round off this little festive ritual by sending them their first text message, sharing a funny GIF and adding a photo of you in their contacts.
Jackie Coates is Head of the Telstra Foundation and mum to a tweenager and teenager. Parents looking for real and practical advice on responsible smartphone use can visit the Telstra Foundation’s new Smartphone Safety Hub, home to tools like a downloadable Christmas First Mobile Agreement, along with safety tips from both experts and parents.