Thousands of B.C. youth in care to receive government-funded iPhones
Thousands of youth across B.C. will be eligible to receive an Apple iPhone to provide them with better access to online resources and help keep them connected to friends and family.
The province announced it will be providing nearly 4,000 youth in government care with iPhones over the next two months as it rolls out the Phones4Youth program.
“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 Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean in a news release Thursday.
Dean added that access to a phone can also support youth in developing their self-esteem and sense of belonging while also enhancing their safety.
“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,” said Dean.
The program is a first of its kind in the province and the Telus smartphones will be distributed to every B.C. youth in care aged 13 or older.
“While cellphones provide a sense of safety and security, this program does more than just that. It helps bridge the divide between youth in care and most other teens,” said Taylor Maynard, a member of the provincial director of child welfare's youth advisory council.
“It allows youth in care to experience what most teens enjoy nowadays – texting, FaceTiming and connecting with friends. It provides a semblance of normalcy to these youth whose lives have been so different than most.”
It will be an ongoing program with additional iPhones being provided to any youth in care once they reach the age of eligibility, the province said.
The iPhones will have five gigabytes of data and come with a phone case, screen protector and charger.
“Youth in government care don’t always have access to many of the traditional supports their peers rely on,” said Pat Griffin, executive director of Victoria Youth Empowerment Society.
“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.”
Youth will also receive support through Telus Wise, which is a free digital literacy program that aims to educate people on how to manage their smartphone in a safe and responsible way.