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How do I introduce technology gradually for my child?

We often advise parents to introduce technology gradually. Kids want to do everything yesterday but actually the slower you introduce it, the more time that you have to catch up. By being part of the process, you can ensure that they engage with technology in a positive way. Here are some ideas for how to introduce technology slowly:

 

Devices

From our online safety sessions with 8-13 year olds, we know that the majority of them already own a smart device. It's understandable as a parent that you want your child to have the best opportunities for fun and for learning. But we have noticed a big leap forward in children's online activity once they get their own device. So keep this in mind and consider using family devices, or letting them do a certain amount on your device, for longer. Whatever device they are using, make sure to check out parental controls on it, and apply them before you hand the device over.

Gaming

We regularly come across very young children playing online games such as Minecraft, Roblox or Fortnite. While they have great fun playing the games and chatting with their friends, they can also be exposed to risks such as contact from strangers, cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content. If your child wants to play a computer or video game, check out the chat element carefully.  It may be better to start them out on games that are not played online. Some games like Minecraft can be played offline on a tablet if you turn off wifi, and other games have no chat or online element at all.

Make sure to check out age ratings on the game too. Games with sexual, violent or otherwise inappropriate content will have a higher age rating (also known as a PEGI rating). Don't assume a game is suitable for their age just because their friends are playing it.  A third of 8-13 year old children that we have surveyed have played an over 18s game.

YouTube

Kids love YouTube, but there is a lot of unsuitable content to which they can be exposed. We would recommend that you set restrictions on YouTube, or use the YouTube Kids app, especially for younger kids. Check out our parental controls page for instructions on applying restrictions or downloading YouTube Kids. They are not foolproof though, so always keep an eye on what they are watching.

Keep in mind also that kids love the idea of posting their own videos on YouTube (approximately a quarter of the 8-13 year olds that we speak to) but it is a very public platform and everyone in the world can download and watch those videos. If a stranger on the street asked if they could take a video of them, they would say no, so it may help to use this analogy when explaining why it is not a good idea to post images or videos of themselves publically.

Social Media

68% of children aged 8-13 are using social media and messaging apps despite the age restrictions. There is a lot of peer pressure for kids to use these apps, and it can be challenging for parents to hold back, fearing that their child may be excluded. If your child is desperate to chat to their friends on a social media app, it might be best to start with an app that is restricted to messaging, rather than a full social media app such as Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram. But remember that issues such as cyberbullying can occur even on messaging apps like Whats App so always keep an eye on things. You could also consider letting them download an app on to your phone or tablet, so that they get the chance to use it, but under your careful supervision.