Teaching, And Enforcing, Responsibility
Often, in situations like this, it’s a balance between education and enforcement. Just like anybody else, kids will often object, strenuously, to rules they see as unfair or unevenly enforced, and want to know the justification for a rule. Some might even complain about a lack of trust. So, before you give them a phone, have a plan and rules in place.
Start with a family meeting before handing over the phone. Lay out the rules of owning a phone and how the obligations of school come first. These will depend on the family and your children: Some make phone time dependent on grades, others make phone usage outside of communication and emergencies a privilege. Think about how you want your kids to use their phones, and make a point of asking them how they plan to use them.
Don’t hesitate to set specific boundaries. Young minds are still developing the experience and tools they need to grasp the consequences of their actions, and as we all know, that can make them all about the immediate experience with no understanding of the long term. So they’re not necessarily going to see the long-term good, requiring you to step in.
So, before you hand over the phone, install tools that let you control how it’s used and when. Screen Time, for example, lets you block off times where kids need to focus on school, not on friends. Make it clear both why these blocks are in place and that it’s a matter of education, not punishment. Give kids the space to ask questions about rules and why you’ve implemented them.
Also, make it clear what violating these rules will entail. Consequences should be both positive and negative, and there should be a clear line between actions and their results.
Changing Rules Over Time
Any system you lay down will need to be flexible. They might ask you to loosen up the rules for vacations, days off, and other situations where they’re not at school or have nothing to do. So work out what’s acceptable on days off, what’s contingent on homework, and other rules.
Remember, your rules will change over time. As kids get older and take on more responsibilities or after-school actions, it may become a bit fuzzy as to what’s school and what isn’t. Should kids have their phones free when they’re waiting around on the bench for soccer or softball? That’ll be up to you, and potentially, their coach or the adult in charge.
But, no matter what, have rules in place, and remember that Screen Time can help. For more about Screen Time, try it for free.