Children, Teens and Technology

Probably the most debated and researched area of CyberPsychology is the impact of digital technology use on young people. 

Parents are often asking what the most appropriate age is for their child to receive their first smartphone. It’s one of the trickiest questions to answer, as every child, family situation and social context is different – and each of these will influence both the risks and benefits of smartphone ownership and use. 

(Disclaimer: The information on this page is a guide and will, hopefully, help you make a more informed choice in when, and under what circumstances and ‘regulations’, you give your child a smartphone). 

Online connectivity with others has its benefits. This was most evident during the 2020 lockdowns and physical distancing measures. Children, teens and adults turned online to connect and interact with others around the globe. 

A 2020 article on the upsides of constant connectivity shares some of these benefits (and risks). If you are unable to link to the page, you can read the PDF version of the article here.

The latest (November 2023) NSPCC Online Risks to Children Review has been released. 

Parents, teachers or social workers: if you are interested in the impact of risky online behaviour amongst children and teens, then this is a must read for you. 

If you are unable to link to the website, you can download a PDF copy of the Executive Summary here. 

Authors: Dr Jo Bryce, Professor Sonia Livingstone, Professor Julia Davidson, Beth Hall and Jodie Smith.

When is the right time to give your child a smartphone?

Ruth is a CyberPsychologist who specialises in technology use among children and teens. Her first video on a Parent’s Guide to smartphone use gives some great insights into when, why and how technology should be given to children and teens. 

You can subscribe to her YouTube here.

Ruth Guest from, talks through Part 1 of her Ultimate Guide to Parenting and Smartphone Safety. 

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Some key insights from the talk are: 

  • Demystifying some online shortcuts from LOL to OTOH.
  • Explaining technology terminology such as: VPN, IP address, cryptocurrency, hacking (including black-hat and white-hat hackers), algorithms, content curation, content creation, engagement, and influencers …
  • Risks and benefits of a child owning a phone that include education opportunities, community, creativity, navigation and safety.
  • Parental controls, education about online safety and regularly review, monitor responsible phone use, setting boundaries and rules, plus leading by example.

Ruth goes into some basics of neuroscience and smartphone use. She also gives a clever little analogy comparing children using a smartphone use and driving a car. She covers some of the main concerns that parents have regarding cyberbullying, adult content, predators, phone addiction/compulsion, privacy issues, poor mental health, and peer pressure.

Book Recommendations
The Cyber Effect (Mary Aiken)

Published in 2017, The Cyber Effect is one of the first CyberPsychology books to be written specifically for the general public. 

A book that everyone should read, especially parents. It will open your eyes to the potential opportunities and dangers that exist online.

iGen (Jean Twenge)

iGen is that latest in a series of books Jean Twenge has written based on her decades of research into generational differences and the impact of technology on younger generations.   Her iGen book outlines her most recent findings on the younger generation having grown up as 'Digital Natives'. Like the interpretation of any research results, she makes some insightful links between the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the behaviours and mental health of the younger generation.  Although there are a number of critics of the conclusions she draws from her research, there are stem startling warning bells we should all take note off to some degree.

The Guide to Teenage Life Online (Nicola Morgan)

Although targeted at, and written for, teens, this could be a good book for parents to read and be able to start conversations with their children and teens about digital technology -the dangers, the impact and what to do about it.