But just like you wouldn’t give them the keys to a new car without laying down the rules of the road, there are a few steps, from installing parental control apps to in-depth conversations with your children, you should take before the phone goes under the tree.
Do Some Reading
The “hottest” apps and games have a short shelf-life, particularly on the internet. But it’s still worth becoming familiar with what’s hot and what’s current now. Open up the iTunes store or the Google Play store and look at what’s being promoted and what the top-selling apps are. If an app your children are talking about is unfamiliar, take a moment to read its ad copy and to research it online, or ask your fellow parents about it.
Set Rules And Standards
To start with, you should have a family meeting to discuss the house rules when it comes to smartphones. A good starting point is the rules you have for other screens, such as televisions or video game consoles. Lay out what you expect, why you expect it, and give the rest of the family space to discuss their views on it and what they’d like to see. For example, you might impose strict schedules such as no phones after bedtime, no phones during dinner, and so forth, and ban or restrict certain apps.
Just make sure everyone understands why the rules are in place, as well as what they are. Remember that the door should be left open; as your preteen becomes a teen, for example, they may need to receive calls from a boss or a volunteer coordinator.
Use Parental Settings
Sometimes, apps can trick adults as well as teens. Recently, malicious apps have been using biometric features like Touch ID to try and swindle users. Take a moment, before the phone goes under the tree, to set up certain features like blocking credit card transactions or preventing the phone from distributing certain types of data such as location. Be sure to password-protect these settings as well. This will help block swindlers and keep kids safer.
Set Up Parental Control Apps
Beyond the settings, install parental control software to ensure the rules are followed. These apps can prevent other apps from being downloaded, set a schedule where only certain apps can be used, such as during school hours, and can even lock phones completely during set periods of time, most notably bed time. This software should reflect the agreed-upon rules you’ve already laid out, and kids should understand the app on their phone isn’t negotiable.
Buying your children a phone is a big step, whether it goes under the tree or they buy it with the money they’ve earned throughout the year. Having these conversations now will go a long way towards preventing tears and arguments later, as well as keeping them safe. To learn more, sign up to Screen Time.