It’s that time of the year again where kids make their wish lists and stay on their best behaviour, and it comes as no surprise that smartphones top the list for many.

In fact, our latest research shows that almost one quarter (23%) of parents are planning to gift their child a smartphone this Christmas, with the majority of surveyed parents believing 12 to be the appropriate age to purchase their child’s first phone.

As a mother of two myself, I understand how difficult the decision is when weighing up whether to give a child their first phone. The truth is there is no ‘right’ age for a smartphone – it really comes down to whether a child is able to demonstrate trust and responsibility by following agreed rules and handling the phone sensibly.

We sat down with three parent and child duos to discuss some of the reasons for and against bringing a phone into their life, in our new ‘Tween Talk’ series:

Olivia and Adriana

Jen and Jess

Beaudy and Andi

Before handing over a child’s first phone, it’s important to use the opportunity wisely to have the discussion with your child and lay out expectations on how your family uses mobiles and technology. Using a guide like My First Mobile Agreement can be a great way to guide the discussion and get on the same page.

Here are our 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.
  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.