10 Safety Tips for Gifting a Kid's First Phone

Dec 11, 2023 by Rukiya Bonner, Director, Children’s Advertising Review Unit and Khoury Trombetta Attorney, Children's Advertising Review Unit

Congratulations on this huge milestone. At this point we can assume that you are past the other gateway devices. You have graduated to a smartphone for your child and might be wondering how you give this gift while also creating a safe environment for your child.

Here are tips from the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) on areas to pay attention to, things to avoid, and steps to take to set yourself and your child up for success.

Set Up the Phone Before Gifting

When you get the phone, before you get to the day you intend to share it with the child, open it, charge it, and most importantly, add parental controls.

  • Password – CARU recommends a f ace or thumbprint passcode vs. a numerical code. Listen to our conversation to learn about the pros and cons. 
  • Parents can and should set up parental controls on their child’s device. For an Android phone, parents can set up parental controls for apps and games, movies, TV, and books all based on the content rating. 
  • If your child under 13 is using any Google product, parents can and should create a Google account for that child through Family Link, controls that allow parents to set screen time limits, locate your child’s device, restrict your child’s ability to download apps based on the content rating of the app, approve app downloads, and restrict content shown in Google Seach, Google Play Store, and YouTube, among other Google products.
  • For children over 13, parents can add supervision to their child’s Google account. Adding supervision to a child’s Google account allows parents to approve or block specific apps in the Google Play Store, approve app purchases (including in-app purchases), manage your child’s browsing on Google Chrome, manage your child’s Google Search results, and manage your child’s account data settings, among other functionalities.
  • For children under 13 using an iPhone, parents should create a separate Apple ID for the child if they do not already have one. This should be done under a Family Group, which will give primary account holders management over a minor's account and help you set parental controls and requirements such as requiring primary account holder consent and a PIN for any app downloads.
  • For iPhone users, here are some tips we provide - listen to the audio for all the details!
    • Activate the feature for sensitive photos
    • Activate the feature for sensitive content
    • Select the highest rating (G, PG)
    • Turn off "bringing devices together"
    • Turn off “read” messages


Download a Few Safe Apps

So, how do you identify a "safe" app?

  • Research apps before downloading – read reviews and check out services that rate children’s apps. If there is not much information online about an app, be careful because some apps can contain malware.
  • Determine whether you will allow social media apps or not before giving your child their phone. If not, be ready to justify it. If you decide that the phone can have social media apps, listen to our tips in the audio that cover these critical topics:
    • Making sure they understand personal information
    • Explaining cyberbullying
    • Helping them understand grooming
    • Review options so you can restrict content and friend groups
    • Turn off notifications for apps
    • In privacy settings, disable photo, microphone, and location for downloaded apps


General Safety

  • Always lock your phone when you aren’t using it and be aware of your surroundings when you have your mobile device.
  • Do not join a Wi-Fi hotspot that you don’t recognize. Don’t assume that hot spots with the name “Free Wi-Fi” or “Public Wi-Fi” are legitimate or safe.
  • Disable automatic Wi-Fi connections and file sharing.
  • Keep your mobile phone updated.
  • Establish that the phone is a tool, not a toy.
  • Set an expectation of privacy - let your child know that you will periodically check their phone to ensure they remain safe.
  • Have an ongoing conversation with your child about their use of their phone – emphasize quality over quantity.
  • Explain your expectations on the types of appropriate content they should be engaging with.
  • Emphasize that they have, and explain the concept of, a digital footprint.


For more about CARU, visit: bbbprograms.org/CARU

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