Are Smartphones the New Pacifiers?

istock_000018436508small.jpg

In times past, parents have pacified unhappy or tired children by giving them a toy or game (or a pacifier). 

The concept is alive and well today, but something has changed.  With the rise of tablets and smartphones, parents are starting to use them to pacify a restless child.

More than half (53%) of parents responding to a recent survey said they use mobile devices to calm children, and nearly three-fourths have downloaded a mobile app specifically for their child.

The question of when it’s appropriate for a child to have their own phone or tablet is tricky, and there is no clear consensus yet. One fourth of the parents surveyed allow their children to own and carry a mobile device.

Fifty percent of parents said the appropriate age for children to own a smartphone is between 8 and 13 (not a small range).  Forty-five percent said it’s between 14 and 18. Only five percent of parents think it’s appropriate for kids below 8 to own a smartphone.

But kids aren’t always ready for the responsibility of handling of an expensive mobile device or even playing with mom’s phone or tablet. Thirty-nine percent of parents have had their kids call a person without their knowledge, and thirty-six percent said that their kids have downloaded an app without their knowledge. Kids are smart, but there’s a real cost associated with open access.

Worse still, twenty-two percent of parents who let their children play with their smartphone said that they have had their devices lost or damaged as a result.

Other challenges include kids playing with apps that are not appropriate. Or allowing a child to select and play an app that secretly sells unhealthy snack foods.

With all this open access to mobile devices, kids are bound to stumble upon something inappropriate or to post too much information online. Parents who use tech devices as a way to keep their kids occupied while they go about their business can’t truly keep tabs on what their kids do.

Two simple tips to start protecting your tablet or smartphone:

1. Apps  

Keeping track of apps used is an important issue. For Android, use an app manager to monitor and control the apps used by your child.  See below for specific details on iOS devices.  This includes review/allowing the apps your child wants and blocking access to app marketplaces such as Google Play, iTunes Store, or the Amazon Marketplace, etc. where apps are distributed.

2. Browsing

Keeping track of web browsing is also vital.  Either install a safe browser so kids don’t stumble across inappropriate content while on the web, or block the use of browsers to stop all web access.

How?

Tools such as Net Nanny can help parents monitor their children’s mobile device usage including web browsing or use of apps, so a parent can confidently hand the device to a child without worrying so much about what they will find online. Both Google Play and iTunes sell safe browsers.

If you prefer to give a child an Android tablet that is designed from the ground-up to be kid-safe, there are a variety of tablets including: 1) Fuhu, 2) Kido’z, 3) Lexibook, 4) Ematic, 5) Meep, and 6) Vinci.  There are others you can find at Toys ‘R Us or Wal-Mart.

If you like iPads, iPod Touches, or iPhones, there are many parental controls solutions already included on your device.  For full details on how to enable those features, see this link for a free webinar with instructions.

Finally, for more monitoring of all activity on a device, SpectorSoft has an Android solution to track activity on smartphones or tablets, not just web browsing or app management.

I work for Net Nanny.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *