Setting up smartphones for children: tips and recommendations

Children today grow up in a highly digitized world and are mostly used to devices from their parents. If the youngest were allowed to spend a certain amount of time in front of the television then, today e.g. mobile devices such as smart phone or tablets used to play movies, series, music or audiobooks. However, children should not have a mobile phone to themselves too early, as it is well known that there are some dangers lurking on the Internet. But if the time comes, it’s important to take some precautions when setting it up. IMTEST tells you below what you should pay attention to.

At what age should children have a smartphone?

Sooner or later the offspring will have their own unit. Many then ask themselves when a smartphone is even good. A general educational recommendation is not to give children their own cell phones before their ninth birthday. Initially, however, it should only be possible to make phone calls with it, as children of this age are usually not yet able to assess the dangers of the Internet.

What’s the best way to educate your offspring about healthy and safe media use?

It does not necessarily have to be a brand new smartphone: Alternatively, a used device from the parents or older siblings is sufficient. If children have to travel long distances alone before their ninth birthday, such an emergency phone for making calls is definitely a good idea.

The Simvalley unit, for example, is such an emergency device and is equipped with four large speed dial buttons and an emergency call button. There are four photo slots on the display, and four normal phone numbers and five emergency numbers can be stored in the memory. The advantages at a glance:

  • Remote maintenance via SMS
  • Simple number assignment
  • Integrated mini LED flashlight
  • SOS function: automatic call until someone is reached

Only from the age of eleven to twelve are children slowly ready to make their first experiences with the internet and apps. Nevertheless, you should gradually introduce young people to its use. Since especially clever young people can bypass or override some security settings, there should also be a trusting parent-child relationship if possible.

A small child uses an iPhone

Here we explain how to activate parental controls on an iPhone or iPad.

These security settings should be made

Each device comes with different technical requirements. Nevertheless, the following settings are possible with almost all smartphones:

Set PIN code and passwords: Both the SIM card and the screen lock must be protected against unauthorized access with PIN codes. Explain to your child that under no circumstances should they share this information with others.

Create user accounts: Many devices allow you to create multiple user accounts. When setting up, parents should therefore assign the main user or owner account and also secure this with a PIN to have full control over the device. The child then gets his own user account (usually via “User” or “Accounts” in the settings). This prevents the offspring from being able to change the security settings.

With Android smartphones, a Google account can be created for the child via the “Google Family Link” app (now also available for iPhones) and certain basic rules for use can be set. The child can also be denied administrative rights so that apps cannot be installed or disabled independently.

Enable parental controls on popular apps: For example, TikTok, YouTube or Spotify have a restricted mode that only allows content that has a youth rating.

Limit screen time: It is best to agree fixed usage times with the offspring in advance and support it all with a suitable app. With some devices this can already be set internally. For example, for Android smartphones, do the following:

  1. Download the settings for the smartphone
  2. Select the item “Settings for digital well-being and parental controls”.
  3. Set individual app timers for daily use via the dashboard

A child with a smartphone sits on a wall

What to do if kids make in-app purchases and what’s the best way to protect yourself and your kids?

Enable third-party lock: To ensure that your child does not accidentally sign up for unwanted subscriptions that are billed on the mobile phone bill, you should activate a corresponding third-party lock via the mobile phone provider. This is usually done on the respective website after the customer logs in with just a few clicks.

Xiaomi Redmi 9A: Cheap entry-level smartphone

As mentioned, it does not necessarily have to be the most expensive model to get started with a smartphone, especially for children. Android devices are more suitable because they are cheaper than Apple products. Xiaomi Redmi, for example, is a smartphone at a low price and with satisfactory technology.

  • 5,000 mAh battery
  • 6.53 inch HD screen
  • 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage
  • Dual SIM card

Samsung Galaxy A22 5G

The Samsung Galaxy A22 5G is slightly more expensive, but with the 5G mobile communication standard and also equipped with important security features. With the device, your youngest can take high-quality pictures.

  • 4 GB RAM, 64 GB internal storage
  • 5G
  • 6.6 inch screen
  • 5,000 mAh battery

IMTEST took a detailed look at the smartphone tariffs of the major providers.

Alternative devices: children’s smartwatch or tablet

Many children are primarily interested in games or watching movies. In this case or in an emergency, alternatives such as tablets or smartwatches specially designed for children can also be used.

tablet for children: Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

For example, with the Amazon Fire Kids tablet, your youngest can learn, play, watch videos and read. The device has been specially developed for children and is equipped with a comprehensive child lock. With this, you decide what the tablet can be used for and for how long.

How kid-friendly is Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Tablet Kids Edition? IMTEST tested the tablet

XPLORA smartwatch

Another alternative – usually cheaper than a smartphone – is a smartwatch for children. The XPLORA XGO 2, for example, is available for just under 100 euros, can make and receive calls to previously saved contacts and also has, among other things, an SOS function.

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