Nowadays, smartphones, tablets and the like are indispensable. The performance of the technical devices is getting better and better and the prices cheaper. The desire to be reachable anytime and anywhere or to be on the go on the Internet is omnipresent. As a result, children and adolescents are now coming into contact with the technical supporters of our time earlier and earlier. In order to be able to chat with their classmates, but also when doing their homework or to be reachable for their parents, many children need a mobile phone, laptop or tablet at an early age. However, many parents ask themselves when their child is mature enough to be alone on the Internet. This article is intended to help you learn how to use your smartphone and other Internet-enabled devices properly. We also recommend what rules and limits you can set for your children.
Children’s ownership of media devices continues to grow
According to a children’s media study from 2017, around a quarter of all 6-year-olds now own a smartphone. Among the 9-year-olds it is already half and young people aged 12 and over have almost all a smartphone. In the range of tablets and PCs it is clearly less. Only 5 to 10 percent of primary school children have their own computer, laptop or tablet. In adolescence, however, these devices are also gaining in importance and are used to over 50 percent (PC) or 25 percent (tablet). For many children, smartphones and the like are now also fashion accessories and a visible sign of belonging.
However, ownership of a smartphone or a computer also increases responsibility. With the technical boom, Internet crime and hidden cost traps have also increased. Children should therefore be informed in detail about the possible dangers. In addition, the devices should also be protected against unauthorized access from outside.
The smartphone for children – time killer or technical wonder?
With the smartphone you have Internet, apps and many other functions in your pocket. From a certain age, this is not only part of growing up for children, it is also increasingly necessary to stay up to date in school. For example, many school classes already organize themselves through services such as WhatsApp. Communication with parents is just as important. Just let them know when it gets late and then look for a bus connection on the Internet – a smartphone makes these things possible. However, many parents ask themselves at what age their child is ready for a smartphone and to what extent it can be used.
In general, it makes sense to teach your children how to use digital media well instead of not allowing them to use it at all. However, it happens again and again that children become too dependent on their new technical companion. Then homework is quickly forgotten and duties and playmates are neglected. In this way, your children learn how to use their smartphone responsibly from the very beginning.
Experts therefore recommend that children not be given their own smartphone before the age of 10. However, this varies from child to child. In any case, it is advisable to sit down now and then and get to know the smartphone together. You can do this with your own device, for example. This allows you to introduce your child to the topic in a controlled atmosphere. It’s also the best way to tell if and when your child is ready for his or her own smartphone.
Your first own smartphone doesn’t always have to be the latest and most expensive. Meanwhile, there are many inexpensive and simple models, even an older used phone can be a good alternative. There are also special smartphones for children. In any case, it should fit the needs of your child. It can be helpful if you involve your child in the financing. So they learn right from the start how to appreciate the new smartphone and get to know the new responsibility.
Game rules for the use of Smartphone and Tablet
You should set up some rules for age-appropriate and responsible use. These could be for example:
- Avoiding public WLANs, Bluetooth, GPS
- Fixed times for mobile phone use
- “Rest periods”: e.g. at night, while eating or doing homework
- Costs for repairs are borne by the child
- Agreement of a fixed cost volume: e.g. through prepaid cards
It is not advisable to set up a mobile phone ban for rule violations. Instead, talk to your child regularly about the smartphone and find out how it is used. Above all, be a role model and show what responsible use looks like. Anyone who sits at the dining table with their smartphone will hardly be able to ensure that their children handle it differently.
Smartphones can usually be equipped with parental controls or software for the protection of minors, and various apps can also severely restrict their use by your child.
Similar recommendations apply to the tablet, even if it is increasingly used at home and by a smaller proportion of children and young people. It’s also a good idea to allow a tablet only for home networking. There are also special tablets for children that are already suitable for children, but these are usually only intended for a very young target group.
PCs and laptops for children – it doesn’t have to be a child’s own
The computer has been an everyday medium for quite some time. For most children it is just as familiar as the television. But while some parents fear that their child could quickly become addicted to a PC or laptop, others introduce their offspring to the topic far too early.
One thing is certain: sooner or later, children and teenagers will need a PC. At school nowadays it is often assumed that a computer with Internet access is available in the household, e.g. for researching homework. But the PC is also used for playing games, chatting and streaming. In order to ensure that the PC is not used exclusively for leisure activities, you should first define a few rules.
In general, as with smartphones, there is no fixed entry age. Most children are interested in a PC at the earliest if they can read. Children often have a special subject about computers at school. If you have a PC in your household, you can first set up your child’s own account there. In this way you can teach your child how to use a computer responsibly and you will see if and when your child is ready for his or her own PC.
Rules and limits for using the computer at home
Whether on a shared PC or on your own, you can define your child’s access and rights individually. You can set these in all common operating systems and/or browsers. For a controlled use we recommend for example:
- Child account: Such an account has low access rights, installations and settings are only possible with the consent of the parents.
- Computer time: You can specify a time credit or a period during which your child may use the PC, after which it locks itself automatically.
- Program locks: For example, you can specify that only word processing and the Internet as well as age-appropriate games may be started.
- Set up filters: Create blacklists for specific pages and install Adblocker.
- Restrict Wi-Fi: In Router Settings, you can set access times for each device used in your household.
- Home page: Special search engines such as fragFINN.de only find child-friendly offers on the net.
You can find out how to find other child-friendly websites and learning programs on the Internet and what their purpose is in our article on websites and learning apps for children. In addition, the topic “Safe on the Internet” tells you which safety and youth protection measures you should take for your child on the Internet.
Conclusion – Children with smartphones, PCs and tablets on the Internet
Thanks to technological progress, smartphones, PCs and tablets are ubiquitous. Many parents are concerned with the question of when and to what extent they should allow their children to do this. For many, owning their own smartphone or computer is the first step towards learning more responsibility. Don’t try to keep your child away from this experience. Rather, you and your child should get to know the technical variety of the devices and talk openly about the dangers and risks of the Internet. So be a role model for your child and teach him or her how to use the media properly at this time.
Good sources on the topic: