15 August 2018

    Drew Hook

    Teaching children responsible mobile technology usage

    Here are some suggestions on how parents can help their children make responsible use of smartphones and mobile devices.

    Screen time and kids is a topic that continues to be hotly debated. Used responsibly, mobile devices can be powerful educational tools, give parents the peace of mind of knowing their children are always reachable, and help children come to grips with tech from a young age.

    Before even purchasing a smart device for a son or daughter, parents can lay the groundwork for the child to use technology in a responsible way. Ahead of giving the child a device, you can discuss elements of smartphone ownership such as how the child will look after the device, which apps and tools he or she wishes to use, cyber-threats like cyberbullying, and what sort of device you will purchase.

    Screen time management

    When children first start using a smartphone, doing spot checks on the apps they’re using and the websites they are viewing can be a good way to set limits. Be honest about what you will be monitoring and encourage children to speak to you if they have an interaction with or see some content that makes them uncomfortable.

    With the recent launch of iOS 12, Apple is giving smartphone users more tools to curb the amount of ‘screen-time’ they, or their children, use. ‘Screen Time’ on iOS 12 offers users a wealth of data about your smartphone usage, breaking down the amount of time spent on each individual app on the iPhone/iPad. You can also check the frequency with which you are using the device as well as the number of notifications you are receiving. Like Screen Time, App Limits factor in usage for all of your iOS devices, and you can also set it up with a family account to monitor how your children are using their gadgets and implement appropriate App Limits remotely.

    Downtime is another new feature of iOS 12 which aims to shift your focus away from tech before bedtime. The programme cuts off all access to apps except for a select few which you give permission to (such as a messaging app). Apple’s latest Xs, Xs Man and Xr smartphones all come standard with iOS 12, and older models can upgrade as soon as the operating system becomes available. The new iOS also allows you to apportion time per category so you could allocate a set number of hours to educational apps while limiting access to games, entertainment and social media at the same time.

    Maintaining boundaries

    Children need some guidelines from their parents if they are to learn to use their mobile devices in a responsible manner. For example, how many hours in a day may a child use the phone and other screens? How much freedom does he or she have in choosing which apps to download and which content to interact with?

    How much data and airtime will children be allowed to use each month? Do you pay or must they pay out of their pocket money? Are you okay with a child using the Internet without supervision? May the child play games on the mobile device? Are there some tasks that the child must do on the family computer rather than a mobile device?

    The rules will vary from family to family, so parents need to reflect on their values and their expectations before setting the guidelines. Naturally, the rules will evolve as a child grows older and hopefully learns to self-regulate.


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    Drew Hook