Local digital expert advises parents how to keep their tweens safe - and we've got two sample phone contracts for you to download

Set boundaries around access.
Set boundaries around access.

The gift-giving season is nearing its end, and we're sure that included among the gifts your kids received may have been a smartphone, tablet, computer, or gaming console. 

As excited as the kids may have been to receive these, according to one Digital expert, 'digital intelligence' must be applied in using them. 

"In one sense, giving tweenagers technology without taking the steps to educate them, set the device up properly, and setting expectations and consequences, is a little like handing over the car keys without a licence," warns Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, the digital training company behind the in-school Digital Life Skills Program. 


Also see: 5 things teens need to know about cybersecurity

Given that most technology is programmed to connect to the internet, McCoubrey says this often means unmonitored access to adult content including unsolicited approaches or messaging via games and social media. 

The likelihood that they may unknowingly stumble across pornographic content is also increased when talking internet access. 

This is extremely concerning but according to McCoubrey, keeping your tween or teen away from technology isn't the answer. 

"We find ourselves in a position where technology isn't going away, so it's pointless to think they won't be using devices in the future. We have to rather educate our kids." 

To help you get a handle on the ins and outs of 'digital intelligence', here are McCoubrey's top tips to parents. 

Set boundaries around access 

Firstly, parents need to get clear on the level of access that they feel is appropriate for their child. Every family and child is different but do your research on what the risks are to public accounts, the various apps, and sharing location.

Make them sign a contract

Remember the Australian mom who went viral for making her son sign a contract stipulating how he was to use the phone she bought him? McCoubrey says to follow suit.

You can download that contract here. 

Set an agreement with your kids about what is acceptable and not acceptable, McCoubrey says, which includes how much screen time per day, what content they can view, how they treat other people online, and how private or public their accounts are to be approached by other people.

Maybe print out the agreement or list of points and put it on the fridge! You can find a smartphone agreement on the MySociaLife website

Gain control 

Authorising what is purchased - apps, games, merchandise - is essential for the parents.

Using tools like Screen Time ensures apps can only be purchased with the parent's permission, by setting this up in their phone or app store and being notified before any purchases get made on their credit card. This allows control over what ends up on the child's device.

Set up the device properly

In "settings" on the device you mostly have to start by visiting the privacy section to set the level of access your child has, or others have to your child and their content - but then also set up up the security settings in each app.

Do you know about 'Safe Search' for example on a browser, or 'Restricted Mode' on YouTube, or even about the app 'YouTube Kids' for much younger children?

You should always have access to the password, and PIN, to check if settings have been changed. 

Do your homework 

There's a lot to understand - how much do parents know about a world of apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram. and settings and games?

Parents have to get familiar with them on Google by simply typing parent tips + name of the app or game' and then talk with their kids about them.

Remember access is like gold

Access to data and wifi should be up to the parent as a key bartering tool.

For the most part, when kids use technology, it isn't plain sailing and rules will be broken, so there has to be some consequence for them to start over, change their behaviour and learn better.

To achieve that, you will need to have some power and data or wifi access is like gold!

Have you made your tween sign a phone contract? How did it work out for you?

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Compiled for Parent24 by Lesley-Anne Johannes 

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