- Yet 96% of parents are concerned about how their children will handle this smartphone
- Nevertheless, 45% do not engage in any form of parental control
- Making agreements and talking about online life is more important than technical aids
Mechelen, 12 May 2022 - A bicycle, a watch or an envelope with money remain popular presents for Holy Communion or the spring festival. Yet for most teenagers the smartphone is by far the favorite gift. This emerged from a large-scale study by Indiville, commissioned by Telenet, among 1,000 Belgians. More than one in three young teenagers who get a present save up for a smartphone or get one from their parents. At the same time, almost all these parents (96%) are worried about the online dangers that come with such a device. Yet almost half (45%) don't know how to make the device kid-friendly. However, more than three in four say they check the device at least once a month. "Talking with the children on a regular basis and making agreements is usually more important than using technical aids," says Karen Linten of Mediawijs.
Smartphone: receive it as a gift or save up for it
Telenet's survey shows that a large present still belongs with Holy Communion or spring festival. The most popular present given by parents is the smartphone: more than one in three (36%) give such a device as a present, dethroning the other traditional gift, the bicycle (30%).
The "envelope" is also very popular with relatives or friends of the communicant: more than two in three (69%) gives a sum of money in this way. With the money they saved up, the children find their way to electronics. 30% of the children save up for a smartphone. A laptop and bicycle share second place, while a tablet comes in third.
As soon as children reach the age of twelve, just over half of adult Belgians (53%) think that they are old enough to have a smartphone with data subscription. Also noteworthy is that more than one in three parents (35%) indicate that their children actually get a smartphone mainly because of social pressure, so that their child is not the only one in their circle of friends without a smartphone. Which type of smartphone their son or daughter gets matters less.
Tom Ghyllebert, staff member of the Telenet shop in Ghent: "During the Communion season, we often see children and their parents come along with the money in an envelope. Together, they then choose a device based on the amount they have saved up. The children pay particular attention to the camera: for their social media account, being able to make photos and videos is the most important consideration. And often the device must also have a trendy cover. This is also clearly different from when younger children get a device: in that case it's not necessarily a matter of having a smartphone as such, with reachability being the main consideration. Parents and children must be able to call each other or send a text message. With teenagers it's much more about communicating with friends and personalizing the device. When deciding which device to get, parents sometimes also take into account what type of devices they already have at home so that it becomes easier to share things or manage settings. Buying a device is easy, but managing it afterwards with the necessary parental control is often a different matter.”
Mums more worried than dads
Although the first steps towards "young adulthood" are linked to getting a smartphone, almost all parents (96%) are concerned about this. Too much screen time, coming into contact with adults with bad intentions or seeing images not suitable for children's eyes are the main concerns. Especially mothers are concerned about these last two aspects. Somewhat paradoxically, more than 40% of parents admit to allowing their children to pretend to be older than they are in order to set up online accounts or apps. Using too much mobile data, buying online without realizing or noticing the dangers of phishing too late are also cause for concern among parents, albeit to a lesser extent.
Little parental control when son or daughter goes online
Despite these concerns, 45% of parents report that they have not enabled security on their child's device, for example, to receive notifications of which apps are downloaded or to manage screen time remotely. 1 in 10 parents say they don't even know such functions exist. Those who do know about them and want to know more search online (58%) or talk to other parents (32%). Almost 1 in 5 parents indicate that the school also informs proactively.
However, in almost three in four households, parents regularly check what their child is doing on his or her smartphone. 8 in 10 parents say they regularly talk about the dangers of the Internet. Agreements are also made about how much time can be spent on the smartphone, and more than 6 in 10 parents also try to change their own behavior to set a good example.
However, 23% of parents say they never check the device and also do not make consistent agreements on screen time.
Talking is especially important
Parental control is not always a complete or structural solution, says Karen Linten, Media Education Expert at Mediawijs. It is especially important that you talk to the children about what they experience over their smartphones. Just as you ask 'How was school?', you could ask 'How was it online today?'. We therefore mainly focus on offering tools for a discussion in order to arrive at certain rules and structure together. Children often indicate that they need such a framework. For younger children, technical aids such as parental supervision can be used in addition to such a discussion. But it is always important that the children know what you are checking and why, and that you grow with the needs of the child. Look at it as training wheels for cycling. You have to remove them at some point to give your child more freedom. Otherwise, they will be clever enough to get round your control.'