6 Ways to Help Children and Young People Handle Gadgets Effectively

In today’s society, adults, children, and young people have easy access to gadgets. Some children have owned their personal gadgets from a very young age.

 

Gadgets such as mobile phones, smart watches, video games, tablets, and computers are usually favourite gift items for children’s birthdays and Christmas presents.

 

Research shows that 10% of children aged 6 in the UK own a smartphone and 40% of them own a tablet. Another 49% of 6-year-olds in the UK have access to a family device while another 85% of them have access to a tablet (YouGov, 2020).

 

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The age of access and ownership of gadgets keeps lowering every year. Globally, one in three internet users is under the age of 18 (UNICEF, 2018).

 

This article explores 6 practical ways parents and foster carers can help children and young people handle gadgets effectively when accessing or owning a gadget.

 

1. Be Balanced
Some parents and foster carers are against the idea of allowing a child access or own a gadget simply due to their personal preferences or the risk they present.

 

Before a ban is imposed on accessing or owning a gadget, parents and foster carers need to consider the benefits and risks involved in allowing access or granting ownership to gadgets.

 

Some of the benefits of allowing a child access to gadgets include improved communication/correspondence with teachers; social interaction with friends and families; learning aid; enhanced creativity; cognitive skills improvement; and access to job/career opportunities.

 

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Access or ownership of gadgets also comes with risks. Some of the risks include the impact on physical/mental health; cyberbullying; low concentration span; data/privacy breaches. 

 

The mental and chronological age of the child may also need to be considered before access to a gadget is granted. A child’s past/current vulnerability may also need to be carefully considered.

 

There are some cases where an outright ban against accessing or owning a gadget is required for safeguarding concerns. This ban may be for a short term or long term, depending on what the issues are. Parents and foster carers are advised to consider each case individually and decide accordingly.

 

2. Ask about ‘Why?’

Before your access or ownership to a gadget is granted, ask yourself, “Why am I getting this child this gadget?” This question deals with the necessity of getting the gadget.

 

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Remember that children may request a gadget just because ‘everyone’ or “all their friends” have one. Just because ‘everyone’ has one does not necessarily mean that your child should have one.

 

Parents and foster carers need to carefully consider the chronological/developmental age of the child before deciding to allow the child access/own a gadget.

 

3. Ask about ‘How Much?’

Parents and foster carers need to think carefully about the cost involved in getting a child a gadget. 

 

With the cost of living increasing, parents and carers need to ask themselves how much they are planning to spend on the gadget.

Parents and foster carers also need to consider whether the money spent on a gadget could be better spent meeting the basic need of the child.

Sometimes, the true cost of a gadget may go beyond the amount paid for the gadget. Further hidden costs may include data charges, calling and texting allowances, insurance, headphones, chargers, and cases. As the saying goes, “Every little thing adds up”.

 

Parents and foster carers also need to consider whether the money spent on a gadget could be better spent meeting the basic need of the child.

 

4. Set Healthy Boundaries

Children generally struggle to regulate their activities without adult help or supervision. Parents and foster carers should ensure that healthy boundaries are set when allowing a child to access or own a gadget.

 

Healthy boundaries may include agreeing on how frequently or how long the child is allowed to use a device. Other practical boundaries include not allowing children to use gadgets during meal times or in certain parts of the home.

 

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Parents and foster carers may also agree to the prohibition or limited use of gadgets at certain places including the park, social events, or before and after a certain time – for example, no gadgets before 8 am and after 10 pm.

 

5. Think about Safety

When parents and foster carers decide to get a child a gadget, be mindful that the safety of the child is always promoted. Children are being targeted by sexual predators through various gadgets including mobile phones and video games.

 

Parents and foster carers need to always be aware of safety issues such as who the child is speaking with, how frequently they communicate, and the content of the communication.

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Parents and foster carers have a duty to ensure that such negative impacts are minimised or removed where possible.

It may be necessary for parents and foster carers to install security apps on the gadgets. Family-friendly filters may be activated to block certain websites that are unsafe for children or young persons.

 

6. Consider its Impact

Parents and foster carers should think about the impact of the gadget on the child to consider whether to allow access or ownership of gadgets.

 

Research confirms that access to gadgets can have a significant negative impact on the health and well-being of children and young people.

 

Some of these negative impacts on children and young people are addiction to gadgets, poor attention/concentration, cyberbullying, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression amongst others (UK House of Lords, 2017).

 

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Children and young people may become easily bored or unable to engage with other children when they are not on their devices.

 

Social media use among children and young people can have a negative effect on their mental health. A child’s sleep and physical exercises can also become disrupted through the use of gadgets (BBC, 2019).

 

Parents and foster carers have a duty to ensure that such negative impacts are minimised or removed where possible.

 

References

‘Children and Technology: Positive and Negative Effects’, Maryville University, https://online.maryville.edu/blog/children-and-technology/

 

Social-media use ‘disrupting teen sleep and exercise’, BBC News, 14th August 2019, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49330254

 

UK Council for Child Internet Safety, Children’s Online Activities, Risks and Safety: A Literature Review by the UKCCIS Evidence Group, October 2017 https://tinyurl.com/ycyufvu3

 

UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, ‘An Internet for Children and Young People’, 17th Nov 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/an-internet-for-children-and-young-people

 

UK House of Lords, Select Committee on Communications, growing up with the internet, Growing up with the internet (parliament. UK)

 

‘UK mobile phone statistics, 2023’, Cathering Hiley, Uswitch, https://www.uswitch.com/mobiles/studies/mobile-statistics/

 

UNICEF, ‘Growing up in a digital world: benefits and risks’, UNICEF, 5TH May 2020 https://gdc.unicef.org/resource/growing-digital-world-benefits-and-risks

 

YouGov, ‘How many children have their own tech?’, March 2020, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/society/articles-reports/2020/03/13/what-age-do-kids-get-phones-tablet-laptops-

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