KANSAS CITY, Mo. - So you're thinking of buying your son or daughter his or her first cellphone? I've done a lot of research on this topic and talked to a lot of experts. Here's what I've learned:
1. Don't give them THEIR FIRST cellphone. Give them a cellphone to use that is part of YOUR ACCOUNT!
This will prove extremely useful when setting usage rules and for the inevitable moment (or two...or three) when you have to take it away for whatever reason. They won't be be able to come back with "but it's mine!" Well, they can try. But you set the groundwork very early on that this is your phone and you're just letting them use it.
2. Figure out your ground rules.
How much time a day can they spend on it? How will you monitor usage? Where will the phone be kept during down times and at night? (IMPORTANT: NOT IN THEIR ROOMS!) What kinds of apps will be allowed, etc.?
3. Don't use real names as part of the email address.
If it's their first cellphone, it's possible they don't have a Google account or email. When setting this up, don't use real names as part of the email. Use letters and numbers, nicknames... the reason is because often times suggested usernames are pulled from the email account linked in the phone. So, for instance, if you set the device up with JohnnySmith1442@gmail.com then when Johnny eventually downloads apps to play or post, it might suggest "Johnny Smith" as a username. When quickly popping through the "approves" and "not nows" of a new app, their real name could end up as their username on the game and then safety can be compromised.
4. LOCK UP THE PHONE!
By that I mean set "restrictions." Iphones come default with access to EVERYTHING. Explicit language and content, X-rated videos, sexual content, etc.
You have to know to go in and set restrictions. Go to settings/general/restrictions/"enable restrictions." At this point, the phone will ask you enter a four digit passcode. (Don't forget it. If you do, you have to reset the phone to factory settings to start over. DON'T forget it!)
Once you've established your restrictions code you can change all kinds of settings to things like "PG" content, and no "sexual content." You can also turn off Safari in restrictions (which I do). If my son needs Safari, I simply enter the code and turn it on for the time he needs it. I make a big deal out of being all secret with my code. He rolls his eyes but we both smile.
5. Customize YouTube restrictions
Kids tell me YouTube is the top app they are using. You have to go in and set restrictions in YouTube. You can do this by tapping on the three dots in top right corner once you've opened the app. Tap settings and then click on "restricted mode filtering." Set "strict."
6. Don't spend too much on the first phone.
It will inevitably get broken or lost. They're learning. Buying an older model phone, used, or refurbished are all options. Besides, you'll need the extra money to cover the bill the first time (or second...or third time) they go over on minutes. Again, they are learning.
7. Set up WiFi on the phone you're loaning your child.
You can control which apps you want to have access to cellular (if any) in settings, as well. On an Apple device, tap settings, then scroll down to the list of apps. Tap the app and toggle the "cellular data" line either on (green) or off (white). Turning this off will help restrict them to app usage only while linked to WiFi.