Smartphones will be under many trees this Christmas with a child’s name on the tag. Before they’re unwrapped, though, you’ll need to make a few decisions about how you’re going to manage how it’s used, and why.
Look At How You Use Phones
Good smartphone use starts with good role models. Write out the rules you want your kids to comply with, and ask yourself if this is a “do as I say, not as I do” situation. This is particularly true around scheduling and timing. If you use your phone in bed, or at the dinner table, start by putting it down. If you expect phones to be left in a specific room to charge, set up a little family phone area now to place chargers and wires.
Understand The Psychology
The world of apps can be intimidating, and kids getting “hooked” on apps is a real concern. Understand the signs and how apps can drive certain behaviors, so you can spot, and stop it, ahead of time.
Draft A Family Agreement
A family agreement about smartphone use is a good way to open a conversation about what you expect with the new smartphone, and just as importantly, why you expect it. If children understand the logic behind the rules, they’re more likely to abide by them. It should also include the costs of breaking the rules, such as limited phone time.
The agreement should cover both specific expectations, such as phone-free times and expectations around homework and personal projects, and a broader consideration of situations that might come up in the future. For example, if you’re getting your teen a smartphone, are they allowed to turn it on if they’re driving, or do they have to leave it off?
Set Up Operating System Controls
Operating system-level controls, such as built-in iPhone parental controls, are limited in what they can do. This is often by design, as including the features parents most want may risk compromising the devices for adults in certain ways. But while the set of tools is limited, they’re usually simple to set up and do offer some valuable protections, such as preventing in-app transactions and blocking certain apps from being downloaded.
Install Parental Control Apps
Parental control apps allow far more control over how kids use phones. They let you set a specific schedule, keep phones from being used during certain periods such as bedtime or quiet time at school, block specific apps, remove “bloatware” that nobody and more. This is particularly important because it gives you a “clean” start with the device, ensuring you don’t need to check for apps kids might hide or malware hiding on the device.
Once they have the phone, talk with them about what they’re doing with it. What apps are they using? What people are they interacting with? Make sure to leave the door open for them to come to you when they have a concern, and make sure they’re educated about thieves, predators, and just general bad actors and abusive people.
Kids need to develop healthy attitudes toward screens as early as possible, and their first smartphone is a good way to introduce them. To learn more, try it for free!