LIFESTYLE

'We're Giving Smartphones To Children Far Too Young'

"I think smartphones should be banned for children under the age of 13," social media law expert tells us.

28/10/2017 07:40 SAST | Updated 28/10/2017 07:40 SAST
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South Africans are generally far too quick to give children smartphones.

That's according to author and leading social media law expert, Emma Sadleir, who sat down with HuffPost SA to speak about how to live smarter online.

"I think we're giving smartphones to children far too young."

Sadleir expressed concern about the "very little" education and awareness most people have about online behaviour, which may have legal and reputational consequences, especially for young people.

"I can mess up as a 14-year-old and 10 years later, that digital content can come back to traumatise me."

READ: Sexting -- The Shocking Pandemic Among South African Teens

She believes parents have a crucial role to play in teaching children about, amongst other things, the "power of a screenshot", "what it means to publish on a Whatsapp group" and "how permanent and public digital content is."

Her advice to parents:

1. Don't give your child a smartphone too young

"I think smartphones should be banned for for children under the age of 13, and I feel very strongly about that."

She believes children do not have the mental capacity to deal with issues associated with online presence. She suggests getting them a basic phone, for the purpose of communication, as an internet connection provides easy access to all kinds of content, whether it's appropriate or inappropriate for their age.

"I can mess up as a 14-year-old and 10 years later, that digital content can come back to traumatise me."

"From age 13, give them a smartphone -- but I think the deal has to be that you as a parent own the smartphone, and they're allowed to use it if certain conditions are met."

2. Monitor their usage and the time they spend on there

Sadleir believes this is crucial, especially for first-time users.

"You need to have the conversation with them. They need to understand that when they see inappropriate content, content that makes them feel uncomfortable, whether they're being harassed or they're being bullied... or they're exposed to this pornography, they can come to you and speak to you."

"I see nine-year-olds who get an iPhone and they are allowed them 24 hours a day. I think that's negligent."

3. Educate yourself about different social media platforms

Sadleir encouraged parents to learn how different social media platforms work, as that will enable better monitoring.

"If your child is using Snapchat, and they're on it three hours a day, and you have no idea how Snapchat works, that's an incredibly dangerous position to be in -- because you cannot keep your child safe unless you yourself know how these platforms work."

Watch the rest of the live chat here: