Digital devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, and smart watches have become integral parts of children's daily routines. These devices serve as gateways to a vast digital world—offering access to information, social interaction, communication, entertainment, and educational resources. However, the connectivity through these devices also exposes them to potential online risks and vulnerabilities. Addressing cyber awareness early not only helps to safeguard children from online threats but may also equip them with critical thinking skills, ethical online behavior, and the ability to make informed decisions in the digital space.

Is my child ready for a device?

Assessing if your child is ready for their first device is perhaps even more important than how to responsibly use it. To help you decide if you and your child are ready for mobile life, take our PhoneReady Quiz. The 10-question quiz helps parents assess their child's behavior, developmental maturity, and their family's values to calculate one of three scores (Ready Zone; Almost Ready Zone; and Not Yet Ready Zone).

Next, if you need help on selecting the right device for your child, read this article on how to choose a phone, smartwatch, or tablet for kids. 

But, if you’re ready to tackle the next step of teaching your kid how to be more cyber aware with their new device, then read on to learn how to build a strong foundation of cyber knowledge and safety practices for your child to help them develop the skills needed to navigate the digital world responsibly.

Understanding cyber risks for kids

Children face several risks like cyberbullying, online predators, exposure to inappropriate content, and phishing attempts that target their innocence and inexperience with digital devices. Unsupervised device usage amplifies these risks, increasing the chances of encountering harmful content or engaging with strangers online. Additionally, unsupervised device usage poses risks like excessive screen time, social isolation, compromised privacy, and the potential for engaging in unsafe online behaviors. Cyber incidents such as harassment or exposure to explicit content may impact a child's emotional well-being, social interactions, and even cognitive development—potentially leading to anxiety, decreased self-esteem, and challenges in forming trusting relationships both online and offline.

Being aware of these threats enables parents and guardians to implement necessary safeguards and educate children on safe online practices, reducing potential risks and promoting a healthier digital experience for kids.

Luckily, there are several tools to help parents manage their child’s screen time and establish responsible behavior when using their device.

How to manage your child’s screen time

Managing your child's screen time is critical in establishing responsible device use. Having a few pre-determined and agreed-upon rules for when and where they can be on their device is key to managing your child’s screen time.  

  1. Have a conversation with your child and set expectations about technology use, including what happens if they don't follow the rules.
  2. You can create a personalized family media plan to help you and your children set media priorities that matter most to your family. Explore more tips and resources on how to create online and entertainment experiences that may be right for your family. 
  3. Additionally, activating parental controls can help enforce screen time limits if rules are not followed.

Establishing a healthy relationship between technology and your child

Establishing a healthy relationship with technology for your child involves more than simply limiting screen time. It's about fostering a balanced approach where they learn to leverage technology for learning, entertainment, and communication while also understanding its boundaries and potential risks. This includes teaching responsible usage, emphasizing the importance of digital etiquette, setting clear guidelines for device use, and encouraging offline activities to promote a well-rounded lifestyle that prioritizes their overall well-being and development.