Before You Buy Your Child Their First Smartphone, Read This!

An iPhone or iPad is an amazing gift. The entertainment and educational opportunities are nearly endless, but it also opens up the world of online pornography, social media, and cyberbullying. This article will help give you the tools and resources necessary for a safe and enjoyable experience on your child’s new device. Real security is a multi-layered approach. There are no silver bullets. No one single measure will cover all the bases. Overlapping security structures will provide a relatively safe (but not perfectly safe) environment.

Step 1 – Set expectations and open lines of communication.

First, your child’s device does not belong to them, it belongs to you. It’s no different than when your employer gives you a phone or computer for work. You keep it, use it, and you are responsible for it, but with one caveat. At any time, your employer can take it from you, inspect it, put filters or monitoring software on it, and confiscate it if you are using it inappropriately. This is the dynamic that you need to have with your child. Explain it to them explicitly before you hand them their (your) new shiny iPhone.

Second, share your expectations for what is and is not appropriate internet use/behavior with your child. In a teen poll, administered by Harris Interactive, more than 80% of the teens (13 to 17 years-old) responded that their parent never talked to them about appropriate use the the Internet. The number one safety factor in any child’s life is a parent who will talk to them and help them develop life skills. No matter what systems you put in place, sooner or later your child is going to see inappropriate behavior online, including your child possibly being a victim of bullying. In a survey conducted by Pew Research, only 1 out of 10 students voluntarily told their parent that they were being abused online. An open line of communication will help your child feel safe about telling you what they are seeing or experiencing online.

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About the Author

Clayton Cranford
Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit. Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.