Children’s Use Of Internet-Enabled Devices

Smartphones and other internet-enabled devices like smartphones, ipods, tablets and gaming consoles have become part of everyday life for many people and as a result many children are receiving their first device at a younger age than ever before. Giving your child their first internet-enabled device can be daunting. While it can be a great way to keep in contact, it can also bring worries about who they are talking to, what they are watching and who they are texting.

At what age should I give my child their own internet-enabled device?

Many parents ask the question: At what age should I give my child a smartphone, or their own other device to access the internet?  When you’re thinking about this, first ask yourself:
  • Is my child old enough for a smartphone or similar internet-enabled device
  • What do they need the device  for?
  • How much do they know about using these devices?
  • What kind of device would be suitable?
  • What parental controls are available on the device?
For any child receiving their first smartphone or internet-enabled device, it can be an exciting time. The new technology can open up a world of new opportunities for them. Therefore, if you are giving your child their first internet-enabled device or smartphone there are some points to consider:
  • Setting expectations in advance
  • Agreeing on clear rules before your child gets their new device
  • Setting location tracking, privately
  • Showing your child how to use emergency calls
  • Talk to your child’s school about their internet-enabled device  usage policy
  • Knowing how the device works
  • Activating parental controls and explaining why these are important
  • Talking about having access to social media services (Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat)
  • Being a contact on your child’s social media accounts
  • Managing the bill/credit associated with the device
  • Considering if the device is appropriate for what your child needs
  • Modelling your expected behaviour
Children and young people learn from what they see; therefore, modelling a positive approach to using these devices will be beneficial for your child.

Screen Time

In this digital age, technology has become an everyday part of life and in particular for children and young people.  The internet can be a fantastic resource with many benefits, but what exactly is the appropriate amount of screen time for children?

What is the appropriate amount of screen time for my child?

There are many views as to what is appropriate but a good starting point is to consider what you as the parent feels is too much and why.  It’s important to consider your child’s usage in the context of how it impacts their life.  You may have experienced a tantrum when you have tried to take the device from your child; you may notice your teenager spending hours on social media. It’s important to know and understand why your child is online and what value they get from this.  This will help you to negotiate rules or expectations regarding screen time. It is also useful to consider the following:
  • The content of what your child is viewing. For example, are they spending their time reading, studying, searching or are they gaming? It is important to know the nature of the screen time.
  • What is your child’s relationship to their device/being online. Does any aspect of its use cause them distress?
  • Does the amount of time your child spends online impact their emotional well-being, sleep, concentration, family time or their relationships?
  • Do I have parental controls set on the device
  • What are the popular child-friendly sites/apps available online?
  • How does my child’s device work?
You can create family rules together and explain why it’s important to have a structure around screen time. Highlight the benefits for your family and agree together what’s appropriate for you. It is important to note that excessive time spent on a device could potentially have a negative impact on a child or young person. Talk to your child about possible risks (e.g. privacy and sharing information; not getting enough physical exercise) and options for safeguarding and support. Finding the right balance for you and your family can be achieved by having regular, open conversations about life online. You can help your child to moderate their own online activity, involve them in the process and feel confident about how they interact with the internet. The ISPCC and Vodafone have together developed resources for parents, you can read more about these here. Additional Support can be found at: You can read how we presented information about Staying Safe Online to children and young people through our site here.

For more information, articles and videos about online safety, visit our Digital Ready Hub. 

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