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The benefits of your child having a smartphone are almost endless – they can access a wealth of information when researching school tasks, keep themselves entertained by playing games online, and socialise with their friends on social media. But if your child is left unsupervised, a smartphone can be a dangerous gadget. So what exactly can you do to ensure your child’s safety and monitor their online behaviour?

1. Set boundaries and rules

Whether it’s about certain types of websites, the amount of time spent on the phone or the type of content they create and consume, it’s important to communicate with your child. Set guidelines that clarify what acceptable and respectable online behaviour looks like.

2. Talk openly about the dangers

Sexting, cyberbullying, online predators, phishing, viruses ... these are some common dangers that your child may be exposed to over their smartphone. Have open discussions about how each of these can be harmful and what to do should they find themselves in these potentially harmful situations.  

3. Consider placing extra measures

According to Marion K Underwood (the dean of graduate studies at the School of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas) openly monitoring a young child’s online usage is recommended. This includes having access to phone passwords, checking their browser history and blocking certain websites. To monitor your under-13 year old online, you can download Google’s Family Link. This allows you to set digital ground rules to help guide your child as they learn, play and explore online. You can allocate screen time for the phone, set and lock internet usage, view your child's internet activity and track their location via Google Maps.

From a certain stage of teenagehood (16 years and up), Underwood discourages excessive monitoring, especially the use of spyware and other technological interventions. Instead, she encourages communication and healthy role-modelled relationships that will ultimately guide your child to making good, independent decisions.

Tip: How to tell if your teenager has blocked you on social media

Facebook: If you can find their profile name but are unable to click to see their account, you’ve been blocked!

Instagram: If you can find their handle but there’s no option to follow them, you’ve been blocked!

If you've just bought your child with their first cellphone, or are considering doing so, click here to find out more about responsible mobile data usage.

Header photo by Daniel Nieto from Pexels

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