The First Mobile – animation for media education

When a child receives their first mobile, they also need new kinds of friendship skills

This animation is about a child’s first mobile phone and the everyday situations and friendship skills that follow. The material also supports discussions on safe and responsible media use to a greater extent. The video and the educational material are aimed at covering this topic with children of preschool and primary school age. 

Using a mobile phone mostly consists of keeping in touch and interacting with others. At first, children will mainly keep in touch with their family members, but soon friends and peers will start to appear in the group chats and phone calls. Children practise their friendship skills from an early age, but when they get their first mobile, the friendships gain a new, digital dimension.

Face-to-face and digital interaction is often intertwined in the child’s life, and each affects the other. This means that they also affect the children’s social relationships and wellbeing. A child should get to practise their emotional and interaction skills and understand the significance of these skills in digital communication. This strengthens their skills in using the device for positive interaction. It is equally important to learn to recognise and avoid pitfalls, such as bullying that happens via mobile phones.

It is worth talking to the children about what kind of pleasant and difficult situations or feelings can come up when using a mobile. Does it change the time spent with a friend if one or more phones are out? What kind of activities on the mobile can cause someone to feel left out or feel bad in some other way? And what kind of activities on a mobile bring about positive feelings and situations?

Bullying is always wrong, whether it is happening through a device or not. You can discuss with the children how to recognise face-to-face bullying or bullying through a mobile phone. How are they different and how are they the same? What should you do if a child is being bullied or notices that someone else is being bullied? You can also ask the children to consider whether there is something about their own actions that someone else could see as bullying.

Emotional and interaction skills become particularly important, as positive and responsible communication through technology requires new kinds of efforts to try to understand other people’s intentions, and an ability to empathise. In addition to empathy, children also need to practise expressing themselves in a considerate way and identifying the emotions that digital communication can cause.

On a mobile it is easy to act or react quickly, before having the time to consider what one is about to do. This can be the case particularly if something that has happened on the mobile causes strong or difficult feelings. Misunderstandings can occur face to face too, but they can happen easily when communicating via mobile phone. In difficult situations that come up on the mobile or in group chats, it is usually a good idea to take a short break to consider things or to ask an adult for advice.

It is good to go over fair and considerate mobile usage with the group from time to time, and also to remind them of the ground rules for taking photos. Everyone has the right to control what kind of photos are published of them. You should not take or share a photo without the permission of the photo subject.

It is a good idea to get the whole class or group to create shared rules or instructions on being a nice friend while using a mobile. What are friendly messages and phone calls like? What kind of communication and activity in group chats is fair, makes people feel good and creates a good community spirit? How does one make sure that everyone is included? It is also a good idea to agree on how and in what situations it is appropriate for the children to use their mobiles during the school day. The list of rules can be put up in the classroom or shared on the groups message thread and with parents.

It is important to remember that the need for and timing of a child getting their first mobile varies from family to family, and each family will make their own decisions on the matter. A mobile phone is only one way of keeping in touch, and having a mobile doesn’t impact whether someone is a good friend.

In terms of children’s social relationships, a mobile can also bring many positive things to a child’s life. In the best-case scenario, keeping in touch with others can strengthen children’s mutual or new friendships and their sense of community and belonging. Following shared rules and keeping their own wellbeing and that of others in mind help children achieve positive things in their digital peer culture.

Words: Rauna Rahja, Osuuskunta Dadamedia

Image: Filmbutik

The animation and pedagogical section support the media literacy skills by focusing on the New Literacies development programme’s competence practices for Wellbeing, and Good Interaction.

The Life Online series, produced by the National Audiovisual Institute KAVI, includes animations aimed at different age groups of children and young people. Educational material has been created to support discussions around each animation. The material can be used within early childhood, preschool and primary education, but also to support media education at home and for example in libraries.

Published under the licence CC BY-NC


The animation and supporting educational material

Animation: The First Mobile
Supporting questions for discussing the topics
The First Mobile – animation for media education