Ensuring Your Child Uses Their Smartphone Wisely
In today’s technological age, it is not unusual for children to own smartphones. However, it often comes with a challenge: How do you ensure they use it wisely? The following guidelines help you to promote respectful and responsible use.1
- Have Rules. A decade ago, children asked for Legos, Barbies, and Disney games. Now, they ask for smartphones, laptops, and iPods. Letting your child know that a smartphone is not a toy, but a tool is important.1 They may use it to get in touch with you, as well as several other things, but it should not overtake their lives with social media. Treat your child’s smartphone as a power tool.1 Show them how to use it correctly—both can do a lot of damage when they aren’t used properly.1 There are rules for using both. The creative freedom that came with previous gifts of Play-Dough and Crayola crayons is not the creative freedom that comes with owning a smartphone.1 The use of the phone will be contingent upon following your rules.1
- Set Usage Limits. Regarding rules, a good place to start is with setting reasonable usage guidelines.1 Compulsive technology use develops quickly for children, as their developing brains are susceptible to the lure of compulsive status updates, continuous checking of incoming text messages, and constant over-sharing.1 Think about the following:1
- Who is your child allowed to call?
- How many minutes is your child allowed each month?
- Is your child allowed to text? How often?
- What apps is your child allowed to download?
- What is strictly off limits?
- What time of night must the smartphone be turned off?
- Can your child bring their smartphone to school?
- What are the consequences for violating the rules?
- Pay Attention to Internet Etiquette. Social media apps open up opportunities for bullying and rudeness.1 With a few clicks, children post harsh, cruel messages that they wouldn’t say to a peer’s face.1 Parents should be very specific about the etiquette used on the internet. Their social media sites should be free of mean comments, gossip, embarrassing photos, and other unkind behavior.1 Teaching children how to avoid succumbing to bullying and rudeness is important.1 Ask them to think about what you, as parents, would think about their messages.1
- Quality over Quantity. Social media sites can gather hundreds of friends and followers, but how well does your child know who is following/friends with them? Remind your child that real friendship is not measured by a number of people on a list, a quantity of texts received, or the number pf people they are chatting with at once.1
- Don’t Ignore Who is in Front of You. When sitting down to dinner or spending quality time with friends and family, putting the phone down is important.1 It is rude to be on your phone, ignoring those who are with you.1 It makes those you are with feel unwanted and disregarded.1
- Privacy, Privacy, Privacy. Utilizing all of the privacy features offered by social networking apps is important.1 This protects your child from allowing strangers to access their online profiles.1 It is also important to teach them how to block comments by people who have a history of engaging in cruel online behavior.1 However, privacy does not apply to you, as a parent.1 You have a right to see your child’s phone, browse their history, and view their social media pages to ensure they are safe.1 However, don’t hide this—let your child know upfront that this is a rule.1