Saskatchewan

Youngsters keen to have smartphones in elementary grades

A safety expert has some advice for parents who are considering sending their youngsters back to school with smartphones.

Safety expert has tips to ensure youngsters are safe with smartphones

Youngsters and smartphones 2:01

A safety expert has some advice for parents who are considering sending their youngsters back to school with smartphones.

With the new school year about to begin, shopping for supplies is in full swing and many parents are adding smartphones to their list of items to buy — for even the earliest grades.

"They look kind of fun, cause you can bring them places," Charlotte, 7, told CBC News. "They are really tinier than an Ipad. You can even fit them in your pockets and you can call people too."

Brian Trainor, a retired Saskatoon police sergeant who provides training on a variety of personal safety topics including anti-bullying, says if children bring handheld devices to school, parents should be aware of some risks and talk to their youngsters about safety.

"We, as adults and parents and teachers, need to instruct kids on how to use them properly," Trainor said. "There's a real silence with kids and the internet. They know what they are doing and they don't want their parents to find out."

(Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Here are some tips offered by Trainor:

  • Start education about technology when children are young. Interact with them about technology and explain to them how it is used in communication.
  • Teach children about online privacy and why it is important to keep personal information private. When appropriate, teach them about the dangers of online predators.
  • Ensure children know your expectations about their cellphone usage. (When? How often? Etc.)
  • Ensure parents and children understand the technology, such as how do you turn off location services.
  • Set and explain consequences if children do not meet expectations.

Some schools incorporate smartphones and cellphones in their lessons. In the Regina Public School system such lessons vary depending on the teacher and age of students.

Trainor said he does not recommend smartphones for elementary grades due to the risk of children encountering cyberbullying.

Youngsters remain keen, however.

"I know I am the right age for one. I know I can handle one," Charlotte said. "But, my parents keep saying, 'Do you know how much money they cost?'"

With files from CBC's Madeline Kotzer

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