Your children might think you’re playing a practical joke if you hand them an old-fashioned flip phone. From making phone calls to surfing the internet, most people (including children) don’t go anywhere without their phones. In fact, many kids are getting their first phone at a young age – as early as elementary school. This presents a unique challenge for parents. As cell phones become more advanced, you have to learn how to parent a smartphone generation, a generation that doesn’t know life without laptops, tablets or globally-connected smartphones.
Need tips? Here are a few pointers to help keep your kids grounded and help keep you sane!
1. Do they need a smart phone?
Even though your children may beg for their own smartphone, ask yourself, do they really need one? Rather than buying a smartphone just for the sake of buying one, consider the age of your children and how they’ll use the phone. Are they mature enough to handle the freedom and responsibility that comes with a smartphone, such as accessing the internet? Will they keep their phones away at school and only use them when absolutely necessary? Do they need a smartphone, or will any cell phone work? Only you can decide whether your child is ready for modern technology.
2. Go cheap.
If you agree to buy your child a smartphone, don’t feel like you have to buy the latest model. Your child may prefer a phone with all the bells and whistles, but smartphones aren’t exactly cheap. The newer the phone, the more you’ll end up paying – for the phone and the monthly service. If you’re fronting the bill for the phone, purchase one that works with your budget. This might not be the phone your child wants, but something is better than nothing. As your child becomes older and starts to work, they can chip in for a nicer phone.
3. Know what apps they’re using.
Don’t put a smartphone in your child’s hands and walk away. You need to regularly monitor their smartphone usage and be aware of what they’re doing online. In other words, what apps they’re downloading, who they’re talking to online and what social media accounts they have. Familiarize yourself with the technology they’re using – apps like Snapchat, Whatsapp and more – and talk to them about how to use these responsibly.
4. Set limits.
Getting a smartphone can be the first newfound freedom for a young child, so it’s important you set appropriate limits to prevent phone overuse and irresponsible behavior. For example, you might restrict the use of their smartphone during dinner or before they’ve complete their homework. You might also establish a rule about not using their smartphone after a certain hour of the night. You can also forbid downloading apps without your permission – or set child lock features on the phone that prevents them from doing this. These measures allow you to keep tabs on what your children do on their phones and when.
5. Enforce consequences for breaking the rules.
If your child breaks any of the rules you’ve set, don’t hesitate to take away their phone privileges as punishment. Some children rely heavily on their phones for entertainment, so if you establish consequences for breaking the rules and enforce these consequences, your children are more likely to act responsibly and make wise decisions to avoid losing their phone privileges
Parenting a smartphone generation can be tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with this technology. But the more you learn about smartphones and understand how they work, the easier it’ll be to decide whether your child is ready for one. The key is setting limits and teaching them how to manage their phone responsibly.