Back to school is the opportunity for many pre-teens to get their first smartphone. An openness to social networks and games, which are not without danger. Here are five tips from an expert for the proper use of screens by the youngest.
Back to school is sometimes the reason many pre-teens have their first cell phone. It is then for them a discovery of the tool and a possible access to social networks and games, which are not without danger.
Todaythe average age of the first mobile phone is 9 years and 9 months in France, i.e. from primary school, according to a 2020 Médiamétrie survey. And 65% of young people from 11 to 14-year-olds already have their own personal smartphone, spending an average of four hours a day on it.
Here are the five tips that Didier Courbet, professor of information and communication sciences at the University of Aix-Marseille, gives parents for the sensible and safe use of their child’s first phone.
- Delaying the choice of a smartphone
In most cases, the first phone given to children is used to inform their parents about their transport and the unforeseen events related to it. But in elementary school as in college, phones are prohibited.
When they are very young, recommends Didier Courbet “give a very simple model where there is no possibility to go on the Internet and limit the use to calls. Or an old phone that the parents no longer use and block access to the Internet. He insists: because it’s always with the internet that the problems begin…“
By the internet he means video games but also social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and especially TikTok, which has become very popular in recent years among young audiences.
In France, the National Assembly sets the minimum age to register on a social network alone at 15. Between the ages of 13 and 15, the consent of the child and their guardian must be requested by the platforms to collect personal data.
Officially, social networks are therefore prohibited for at least 13-year-olds, as this tweet from the Var Gendarmerie reminds us.
“At the age of 10-12, they do not yet have the maturity to go on social networks, there is a certain addiction, which we notice, especially for girls. Children must be protected as soon as possible“, explains Didier Courbe.
- Install parental controls and filters
It is also recommended to install filters or a parental control device to limit access to certain websites and especially to pornography. One in three children has already been exposed to this type of content.
“Watching pornography for young children can cause problems with their own physique and be a source of anxiety before they reach puberty. And they can also reproduce what they see in their future relationship and have a biased view of love.“deciphers Didier Courbet, who has just published a book”Connected and happy!”
Watching pornography for young children can cause problems with their own physique and be a source of anxiety before they reach puberty
- Introduce rules that limit the use of the phone
Before handing over their first smartphone to the child, it is important that the parents think about the rules for setting limits on use and that they both agree on this.
A box can e.g. set up to silence the phone during meals or homework. “It’s harmful to attention and memory, when doing homework you have to remove it completely from the child’s sight. I press it because even when it’s still visible it can stimulate the child”, warns the university.
For Didier Courbet, one rule is non-negotiable: “no phone in the room at night! “Ideally, children should stop using it two hours before going to bed. The negative effects of the phone have been widely proven on children’s sleep.
But it is also important that the rules develop with the child in order to give him more permission when he grows up. “We need to think carefully about each age, the use that can be made of the phone“, specifies Didier Courbet.
- Monitor any changes in your child’s behavior
The effects of the phone can cause many problems for the child’s health. The academic advises to monitor any change in his child’s behavior that may be due to video games or social networks.
“He can develop anxiety disorders, and especially the fear of missing out on social networks and of being excluded from a group of friends, when in reality nothing is happening, but the child is constantly looking at his phone“, describes Didier Courbet.
Today, the risk of addiction is recognized by the WHO for excessive practice of video games, especially for boys. When the girls, on their part, are more influenced by social networks and the image they give off.
The use of filters en masse is a result of this phenomenon, which the professor from the University of Aix calls dysmorphophobia. It can even lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder that can end in cosmetic surgery to look like the perfect social media filters.
Not to mention the risks of cyberbullying, which unlike bullying is not limited to school classes, but follows the victim home even after a day of classes.
“ Therefore, it is important to see if your child becomes sedentary, speaks less and withdraws into himself, gets bad grades back. In any case, it must be possible to have a dialogue with him.“, advises the academic. And if necessary contact a specialist.
- Combine freedom and vigilance
For children, having their first phone also rhymes with a great freedom that is given to them and in particular to be able to exchange with their friends, among other things.
“It is very important to always be in discussion, explanation and compromise with the child in order to find solutions that suit everyone, explains Didier Courbet. And parents should not see evil everywhere and let it be a source of conflict.”
He warns against spying and the fact that parents can have the passwords to their children’s accounts, warning against “better to let them be free, but to be on guard“.