Our Company Director and mum of three shares her 'Top 5' tips for supporting your child with their first mobile phone:

Before you buy a mobile phone for your child:

1. Talk First.  

Conversation with your child before they get their hands on their first mobile phone is so important.  Share information about what you are both looking forward to most.

You will likely have worries about your child getting a mobile phone, but you might find your child does too. It's good to be open and honest with each other and recognise that you might not always see eye to eye. You should ensure your child knows that your priority is always their safety and wellbeing.

2.  Think about ground rules.  

Where and when do you feel it would be appropriate for your child to use their mobile phone?  Will you have a 'downstairs only' rule? What about the dinner table or during family outings?  How late is too late to call or message someone? Where/when will the phone be charged - who will be responsible for this?  What will happen, what are the sanctions if your child behaves in a way that demonstrates they are not responsible enough for a mobile phone?  In order to share your expectations for mobile phone use with your child clearly you need to have unpicked this for yourself.  Where possible, consider discussing this topic with other parents and caregivers to ensure your child experiences consistency in both expectation and approach from all of the grown ups in their life.

3. Work hard to maintain an open and trusting relationship with your child.

Giving our children the space to develop their independence and (naturally!) make mistakes - whilst keeping them safe is a challenge. How we as parents respond to our child's developing interests, independence and evolving private life is key to a positive, respectful and healthy relationship. At access:technology we believe that feelings of shame and an inability to talk to a trusted adult are key factors that place our young people at risk online. As parents we need to be trying our best to avoid a dynamic where our children feel they can't speak to us and that they should hide or delete information.  Regular, positive, meaningful and respectful communication is key... keep the topic on the table. "Be cool", you may be anxious (I often feel neurotic!) but share that with another adult - rather than your child.

4. Consider how you will keep your child safe.

At access:technology we recommend that children do not have free reign to download apps, access the internet or use mobile phones without being taught the risks and without some confidence they (in the most part!) have the capacity to make decisions that keep themselves safe. Establishing what mechanisms you will use to protect your child from accessing inappropriate material and engaging in risky online activity from the outset is key. Consider and explore: monitoring and restriction options built into your child's device(s), the family and parental settings of your internet provider, child friendly SIMs - like Parentshield, and services like Next DNS.

5.Try and keep current.

Maintaining an interest in how young people are interacting with each other and how they are using the internet will be key in forming realistic expectations for your child and anticipating potential for risk. The internet, its capabilities and the way humans interact with it is evolving constantly and quickly, it's challenging- but knowledge is power, so don't let it be a topic you shy away from. There are a huge amount of resources available online to support parents. These are some of the good ones: NSPCC, Internetmatters.org & parentsprotect.co.uk