Kids and Smartphones: 5 Ways to Help Them Avoid Overuse and Stay Safe
These days, technology is available to us at our fingertips—literally—with the help of smartphones. And because families often have busy schedules, many kids are receiving smartphones of their own so they can stay in frequent contact.
While smartphones are a convenient and even entertaining tool, they give users more opportunities for cyberbullying through instant access to platforms such as social media sites and text messaging. If you are thinking about giving your child a smartphone, consider some of the following tips to help him or her have a positive and safe experience!
- Discuss your family’s smartphone rules.
Before you hand the smartphone over, sit down with your child and let him or her know the limitations and rules. Having phone rules will not only help you better control and monitor usage, but will also encourage your child to be a safe and productive smartphone owner. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you decide what rules work best for your child:
- Do I want him or her to have access to social media sites on the phone? If so, which ones?
- Should I take away the phone during specific times (e.g., homework time, dinner, family gatherings, etc.)?
- Would it be a good idea to review any app before my child downloads it?
- Should I limit the amount of text/picture messages he or she can send and receive so as to avoid distractions?
- Explain why being safe is important.
It’s no surprise that kids are not too keen about rules, but it might help if you explain why you create them. It’s also a great way to educate your student about proper netiquette. Let your child know why having unlimited freedom on his or her smartphone can be distracting and dangerous. If you haven’t done so already, discuss cyberbullying and how it can negatively affect the victim—and the bully as well.
- Download educational apps.
Believe it or not, a smartphone can serve as an educational tool, too! If you prefer no social media apps on your child’s smartphone, educational apps are a great alternative—especially if the app relates to a topic that he or she needs some extra help with. Aside from being educational, the apps are often incredibly enjoyable and engaging, so your child will most likely forget he or she is learning at the same time.
- Keep a close eye on it.
Do you know your child’s smartphone password? Are you able to identify everyone who is on his or her contact list? You don’t need to check it every day, but you should consider checking your child’s phone periodically to make sure you aren’t missing anything that needs to be addressed. You should also stay up-to-date with the newest “texting language” so you can translate any acronyms or code words. If you are hesitant about invading his or her privacy, remember that it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your child’s safety.
- Encourage more talking and less texting.
Since texting is a fun and quick way to communicate with friends, it’s easy to get in the habit of sending a text instead of having a real-time conversation. Emphasize the importance of talking to and connecting with others face-to-face in order to build authentic relationships. Remind your child that it’s difficult to get to know someone well without being able to see his or her facial expressions, gestures, and reactions.
Owning a smartphone is a major responsibility, but with a few guidelines and close observance, you can empower your child with knowledge that will help him or her use a smartphone safely and appropriately. What are some family smartphone rules that you use for your child? Share with us in the comments.