Modern technology gives us many things.

Smartphones top Christmas wishlists for children – and how parents can cope

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It looks like smartphones are going to be a popular gift this Christmas with new research from Telstra showing almost half of Australian parents will be putting a device under the tree for their child.

But while smartphones are on trend for gifting, the issue of safety and usage was still a concern for parents.

According to the research, 45 per cent of parents said a smartphone was at the top of their child’s wish list while 24 per cent considering a tablet for their son or daughter.

Children aged 12 are more likely to receive a device for Christmas with nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of parents believing this was the appropriate age for them to receive their own phone.

The research also covered obvious benefits for their child having a smartphone including greater independence while still being contactable at all times.

Not surprisingly, one of the top concerns for parents was their child spending too much time on the device (32 per cent) followed by the worry it will cost them money (14 per cent) through either excess data charges or if it is broken.

“As a mum of a teenager and a tweenager, I know just how hard it is to decide when the time is right, and how to bring a smartphone into your child’s life in the safest possible way,” Jackie Coates, head of the Telstra Foundation, said.

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“The truth is there is no right age or right way, every child and every family is different – but we’ve put together a range of tips, tools and advice to guide and support parents through this journey.

“One of the tools is our Christmas First Smartphone Agreement which helps parents and their kids to set ground rules together. If kids are part of setting the standards on device use, they’re more likely to stick to them.”

The Telstra Foundation’s top smartphone safety tips for parents:

  1. Set the bar: One of the simplest ways to make sure children have a healthy relationship with their digital devices is to involve them in setting boundaries around acceptable screen time, and deciding together. Download Telstra’s Christmas First Smartphone Agreement
  2. Thrive or skive: Not all screen time is created equal. Allocate screen time with your kids, where an activity is more valuable for their development, the more time they can spend doing it.
  3. Be a good role model: Lead by example, if you want the dinner table to be a device-free zone. That means the same rules apply to you too. Children are happier to follow rules if they feel like everyone is playing by them.
  4. Clock off: You can’t be looking over your children’s shoulders at all hours of the day. There are a range of parental control tools to help families become more mindful about screen – time habits. One of these is Telstra Mobile Protect – a free service with controls including time restrictions.
  5. Do some eLearning: It’s important for parents to do some research and familiarise themselves with their child’s favourite sites or apps and take the time to understand how they work.
  6. Lock it down: It’s worth teaching kids from a young age not to share passwords with others or across different sites and accounts, and get them in the habit of using passphrases so they’re hard to guess but easy to remember.
  7. Stay involved: There’s no need to be overbearing, but encourage kids to use their devices in communal areas of the home. That way if they do come across something they weren’t looking for, they can let an adult know straight away.