Sooner or later (most) parents inevitably get around to buying their kids their own electronic device. According to Kaspersky’s research, 61 percent of children get their first device between the ages of eight and 12, and, perhaps surprisingly, in 11 percent of cases, they’re given their own cell phone or tablet before they turn five. It’s essential for parents to know the guidelines for introducing a device into their kids’ lives for the first time.
Together with clinical psychologist Dr. Saliha Afridi, Kaspersky is presenting cybersecurity and psychological considerations that parents would do well to be aware of before giving their kids their very first tech gadgets.
What to do before giving a gadget to a child?
Set up a Child Account before giving your offspring their first gadget. Whether it’s a phone or a tablet, it’s crucial to ensure the age-appropriateness and safety of the gadget. Even if it’s a brand-new gift, prioritize setting up this feature. A Child Account acts as a safeguard on the device, preventing things like downloads of mature content or songs with explicit content. For detailed guidance on creating a kid’s account, refer to our guide for Android or the one for iOS.
Install all the basic applications that support either communication or geo-location (like messenger and map apps), plus learning applications. And don’t forget to set up the privacy and confidentiality settings in each of the installed applications, so that the child, for example, isn’t discoverable via their phone number by unknown individuals. Tools like Privacy Checker can assist you in tailoring the optimal protection settings for various devices and platforms.
Remember to install a digital parenting app as well. This will empower you to curate content, monitor the amount of time your kid spends on specific apps (and set limits if needed), and track their current location.
How to introduce a new device into a child’s life?
Walk them through the device’s functionalities as well as the potential dangers when gifting them a new gadget. This is an opportune moment to explore its features and understand its potential pitfalls.
Craft a set of family usage rules together. In this conversation, it’s important to foster an understanding and consensus about the responsibilities and expectations tied to device ownership. To ensure a healthy balance, establish tech-free zones and times — perhaps during dinner or the hours leading up to bedtime. Designate moments for non-tech hobbies like reading, outdoor games, or puzzles, which can act as beneficial alternatives to screen time. Periodically revisiting and refining these rules as your kid grows and technology advances is key.
And remember — unless a kid shows a healthy level of engagement with real-life activities and in-person socializing, don’t introduce a smartphone or social media. One way they can earn a device is by showing that they’re capable of doing the “non-negotiables” regularly and consistently. These include sleep, exercise, homework, socializing, eating healthily, and wakeful resting periods.
How to talk to a child about online safety?
Encourage open communication from the outset. Engage juniors in conversations about their online experiences — ensuring they feel safe to share both the good and the bad experiences.
Stay up to date with the latest digital trends and threats as well as high-profile cyberbullying or data breaches. Share this information with your child in a way they understand. You can learn the latest cybersecurity news via our blog.
Bring up the permanence of online actions. This includes how things shared online stay there forever and can affect their reputation and future opportunities. Kids should be especially careful about information they share about themselves: never giving out their address, geolocation or login credentials and passwords. Additionally, they should avoid using their real names as user IDs, as these can be potential clues for attackers to discover their other social media accounts. Help them understand the concept of privacy and the potential risks of sharing too much information.
Teach your kid that accepting friend requests from unfamiliar individuals in real life should be avoided. It’s crucial to explain that if someone they don’t know is persistently trying to find out personal information about them or their parents, it’s a cause for concern. Your child shouldn’t feel they’re being rude or impolite if they don’t respond to a request for friendship. In social networks, just like in life, there needs to be privacy.
By having such conversations and educating your children about online risks in a non-confrontational manner, you raise your kids being more likely to approach you when they encounter something questionable online. You should make sure they maintain a stance of curiosity — not judgment or fear. Your reactions will determine how open they feel about sharing in the future.
And a digital parenting app serves here as a valuable tool to enable you to monitor your kids’ online searches and activity, ensuring a safer online experience.
What are the main risks I should tell my child about?
In our digital age, kids are vulnerable to cybercriminals, often because they’re unfamiliar with essential cybersecurity principles and common scam tactics. It’s our duty as guardians to educate them on these matters before they inadvertently fall prey to them.
For instance, guide your kid in identifying deceptive commercials, bogus survey requests, counterfeit lotteries, and other schemes that can jeopardize their personal data. Help them grasp the reality that, while it might be tempting to download a Barbie movie ahead of its official release, offers like these could be ploys by cybercriminals aimed at pilfering data or even siphoning money from their parents’ cards. A reliable security solution can detect and block any phishing websites or any malicious software.
Instill in your child the habit of being critical and cautious when online. Teach them to pause before clicking when it comes to dubious links, unfamiliar email attachments, or messages from unknown entities. Discuss the appropriate permissions apps should have on their devices. For example, there’s no valid reason for a Calculator app to request geolocation access.
Make conversations about cybersecurity more enjoyable and interesting by discussing the topic through games and other entertaining formats. Most importantly, instill confidence in them to approach a trusted adult when faced with unsettling or suspicious situations online.
How to check that you’re prepared?
Once a gadget appears, your family’s life will inevitably undergo a transformation, as your kid will be drawn into the realm of the internet. Rather than forbidding it, it’s advisable to guide them on proper online behavior — if used correctly, a gadget can really help kids learn and grow. However, this can only happen if they know when and how to alert their parents about any online threats they come across – whether they’re receiving strange messages from adults, requests for personal information, or stumbling upon phishing sites.
Learning, however, is a gradual process, and it doesn’t guarantee perfection from the start. Mistakes will naturally occur, such as your kid accidentally downloading malware or engaging with suspicious individuals or struggling with screen time management. Nonetheless, your role as a parent is to provide support and assistance in their learning process. Only this way can you help your child be safe online.To get ready for the challenge, we suggest taking a peek at our complete handbook for parents about getting your kid’s first gadget.