The British Columbia government announced on Thursday it plans to give nearly 4,000 Apple iPhones to youth in government care, to better allow the latter to stay connected to friends and family and access resources and services.
“Youth in care told us they don’t always have access to the essential technology they need to stay connected to school and key people in their lives, like friends, family members or mentors,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, in a statement.
The program will be from the government’s Phones4Youth program, which has partnered with Telus to give every youth aged 13 or older in government care an iPhone, regardless of their care status.
“Access to a phone can support youth in building their self-esteem and sense of belonging, and help them to maintain important hereditary and cultural connections, as well as enhance their safety, so they can call for immediate assistance if they ever need it. As we continue to slowly emerge from the pandemic, having a phone can help to alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation for young people,” added Dean.
The iPhone rollout will begin over the next two months and will be ongoing, as when more youth in care reach the eligible age, they will receive a smartphone from Telus with voice minutes and 5GB of data. Also included will be a case, screen protector and charger, all paid for by the government.
“Providing this technology will not only help level the playing field, but it gives them a better chance to participate in school, in day-to-day social life that is a central feature of teen development and identity, and in the job market as they get older. This type of support is absolutely necessary, as we increasingly depend on cellphones and apps for sharing information and accessing vital services,” said Pat Griffin, executive director, Victoria Youth Empowerment Society.
The free digital education program, Telus Wise, will educate youth and more about the use of technology, along with risks associated with social media, plus also learn how to manage using their new iPhone in a safe and responsible manner.
As of August, the province says it had 5,163 children and youth in government care, which it says is the “lowest number in 30 years.”