When kids ask (read: beg) for their first phone, parents often dust off their old iPhone or Android, connect it to Wi-Fi, and think their problem is solved.
But what if this simple solution actually brings harm into our kids lives?
While we agree technology is super helpful for driving civilization, education, and healthcare, we can't deny its negative impact on society.
According to one report, young kids spend between six to nine hours per day in front of their screens. So instead of reading books, working on assignments, or playing — kids are relying on phones as their go-to activity.
When we give our kids our old devices, we're actually giving them access to the entirety of the adult world. So what are the specific dangers in giving my kid my old phone, and what can I do to protect them?
First, too much screen time on iPhones leads to poor mental development in children. Data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows kids with over two hours of screen time experience slow brain development. As a result, their learning ability, critical thinking, and reasoning capacity become stifled.
Although Apple claims to provide screen time features that let parents set time limits on their kids' apps, kids can maneuver this restriction. For most parents, the iOS screen time feature has a bug that allows their kids can extend screen time by one minute.
Plus, iPhones expose your kids to adult content. Kids can access, share and view adult content via in-app messaging on iPhones. But beyond the in-app messaging feature are non-obvious ways of distributing adult content on iPhones.
According to a news article, some developers mask and promote adult content via various iOS apps. For example, a report disclosed one Chinese app known as a snack ordering app with a supposedly friendly interface on the iOS platform to be an X-rated porn site.
Meanwhile, another iOS app named Calculator# is helping kids hide visual content like videos and images. At a glance, you'd think the app is harmless and valuable. But check out the description in the AppStore: "It looks like a calculator, but it secretly hides your confidential photos, videos, documents, passwords, notes, contacts and to-dos. It disguises itself as a calculator to make it impossible for prying eyes and hackers from discovering it."
This means anyone, including kids, can hide sensitive materials on the app. In other words, even with parental controls, parents aren't allowed to access the materials locked behind the walls of this app.
Even more challenging is the unsuspecting disguise of the app as a calculator, which means that kids can easily download it since it postures as an educational app.
With these dangers, it's no doubt iPhones are unsafe for your kids. So what are our options?
Safeguarding Kids on Smart Phones
If you're determined to give your kid an iPhone, you'll need more than parental control features to protect your kids from dangers that we know about today. You can limit the number of websites accessible to them by navigating to the screen time section and setting "web content" to specific websites only. This will help block out websites with adult content.
Also, set their screen time to about one hour daily for better creative activities. And finally, ensure kids aren't engaging their screens during crucial hours like family meal times and bedtime.
Unfortunately, internet forums are rife with parents sharing how their young hackers disabled and circumvented parental controls, which is exactly why we created an operating system designed to promote wellbeing in kids. With Pinwheel, kids and teens get all the benefits (including the look of an adult smart phone) of an iPhone, without the worry.