• April 23, 2024

Sooner or later, most parents inevitably get around to buying their kids their own electronic device. According to Kaspersky’s research, 61% of children get their first device between the ages of 8 and 12, and in 11% of cases, they’re given their own mobile phone or tablet before they turn five.

Together with clinical psychologist Dr. Saliha Afridi, Kaspersky shares important cybersecurity and psychological factors that parents should know before handing their kids their first tech devices.

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. A Child Account acts as a safeguard on the device, preventing things like downloads of mature content or songs with explicit content.
  • 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 functions and potential risks. Take this chance to discover its capabilities and be aware of possible dangers.
  • Craft a set of family usage rules together. In this conversation, it’s important to agree on responsibilities and expectations linked to owning a device. Maintain a healthy balance by setting tech-free zones and times, like during dinner or before bedtime. Schedule moments for non-tech activities such as reading, outdoor games, or puzzles to provide positive alternatives to screen time. Regularly review and adjust these rules as your child grows and technology evolves.

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. Talk to them about their online experiences, making sure they feel comfortable sharing both positive and negative moments.
  • 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.
  • Bring up the permanence of online actions. Explain to kids that what they share online stays there permanently and can impact their reputation and future opportunities. Advise them to be cautious about sharing personal information like their address, location, or login details. Encourage the use of usernames that don’t reveal their real names to avoid potential risks.
  • 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.

By having such conversations and educating your children about online risks in a non-confrontational manner, you increase the likelihood that they will come to you when faced with something questionable online. Encourage a curious attitude rather than judgment or fear.

What are the main risks I should tell my child about?

Guide your kid in identifying deceptive commercials, bogus survey requests, counterfeit lotteries, and other schemes that can jeopardize their personal data. 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.

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.

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, take a look at Kaspersky’s complete handbook for parents about getting your kid’s first gadget.

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