The acquisition of the first smartphone has emerged as the key turning point in modern childhood. Younger kids are getting phones more than ever before, so parents need to be ready just like a teenager receiving their first car. Having a smartphone increases independence but also increases risk.
Parents need to lay the groundwork for their child's secure and responsible use of a device that opens up to them an infinite digital realm with a lot of sketchy alleyways and dark corner, just like you wouldn't hand over the keys to a first car without making sure your child can drive safely and legally.
Safety is rooted in open parent-child communication.
If you haven’t started hard conversations with your child, then expect their first smartphone to be a catalyst for this change in your relationship because there are a lot of things kids encounter online, things as pornography, depictions of violence, sexting, grooming by online predators, catfishing, cyber-harassment and cyber-bullying, content relating to suicide, disclosure of personal information, and the law, among many other things that are always arising.
Rachelle Best, the CEO and founder of FYI play it safe, an AI-powered monitoring app, said some parents think that if they use a parental control app, they can side-step conversations with their child.
“Establishing a trusted practice of talking about threats, dangers, and staying safe, means that when your child is facing a challenge, they will come to you to talk about how to handle it.”
Best highlights a crucial point that parents and guardians tend to miss: “Keeping your child safe online shouldn't involve monitoring every website they visit or every discussion they have with their pals. Instead, help your child develop digital literacy and gain the skills they need to become responsible digital citizens capable of handling problems on their own.”
So, what do parents need to know and do about internet safety?
Be aware: Maintain a constant interest in problems related to internet safety and be informed about the newest and most dangerous threats. Be your child's go-to resource for crucial information about online safety.
Raise a responsible digital citizen: Your parental role extends into the virtual world as well. Learn about the recently passed Cybercrimes Act in South Africa, and keep up with the expected norms of conduct online.
Promote your family’s digital literacy: Encourage scepticism and thorough research on the reliability of information sources. Educate your kids about propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation as well as the financial incentives that motivate social media influencers and the tools that allow for fabrications like deep-fake videos.
Parents need to establish and maintain a family online safety ecosystem: A parental control app should be part of an online safety ecosystem to keep your children safer online.
FYI play it is an app that safely monitors all apps, and online interactions, including in-game chats. New accounts and apps are included by default without the need for your child's account credentials. This is a solution that supports the goal of having open, trusting conversations about threats and dangers, claims Best.
Getting a first smartphone is an exciting and fun milestone for your child. There are so many benefits for a connected child, from the boost of safety in the real world to the discovery of new information, interests, and connections that can enrich their lives.
However, opening up communications, setting reasonable ground rules, and establishing a family online safety ecosystem are the basics for your child to be able to enjoy the many advantages of being connected, and becoming a responsible digital citizen is fundamental to keep both you and your child safe.