The most important decision a parent will make is how and when to grant their child access to their own smartphone. It is a common question, which is often answered in an ad hoc way, by what is happening in other families. Usually there is extreme pressure because your child’s peers have already received their own smartphones, some as young as eight years old, and your child will want to have exactly what they have – now.
This is a defining moment for you and your child, and it will have consequences in the quality of your relationship as your child’s journey into adolescence and young adulthood.
Below are some tips for making this decision:
Clarity about your role as the parent. Your job as the parent is to teach your child how to be a good cyber-citizen, who is not easily duped by the negative influences of sexual exploitation, bullying and addictions hyped in the cyber social realm. You have authority to govern the home and educate your child on how to be secure. This is the authority of protective cover which never expires, but transforms from teacher to counselor and coach as your child learns how to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions in every stage of their life. So there must be open communication and common user discipline between you and your child when you issue him his own smartphone, so that you can impart your wisdom as your child experiences the ups and downs of their own life on and off-line.
Establish clear criteria in your home for use of a smartphone. Much like preparing your child to drive a car, before you issue your child his/her own smartphone, he/she must understand the responsibility and good judgment that he/she must show you in how he/she responds to the limits and rules of your home, and how he/she treats others. This must be clear to your child, so that he/she can appreciate that this cyber connectivity is a privilege that comes from correct thinking and actions; it is not a right.
Selecting the right smartphone. The smartphones are all very similar in functionality: voice, texting, camera, and access to download and operate apps. It is a mini-computer that wields great power to connect with people and ideas and experiences around the world. The best approach is to make a minimal investment in the device as a first time experience, and establish parental controls with house rules, including a time at the end of the day when your child turns in the phone. Therefore a simple android “go phone” will be sufficient initially.
Family-approved app list. Whatever phone you select, make sure that you and your child are in agreement on the parameters of use. For example, establish a “family-approved app listing” wherein you and your child have listed the apps that he has permission to download and use. Establish a house rule that you will randomly check the device to review the apps that are installed on your child’s phone. If your child protests that you are checking her phone, explain that you are building trust. That every time you catch your child doing something right, it builds trust. Eventually you will not be checking their phone as your child matures into young adulthood, because you expect him to grow up and become fully responsible for his own actions. Right now, you are training him on how not to give up power by getting caught in risky traps and downloading maleware that comes with free, strange apps.
Fundamentals for House Rules
Each family has a unique culture, as every individual is unique. For instance, they should
- Consider Internet access and smart phones as a rite of passage – not a right.
- No secrets, no surprises.
- Transparency mandatory. Explain why the rule exits and how they benefit individuals and the family.
- Regulate schedule and access to cyber tools (mobile phones and Internet).
- Unplug phones at a designated time in the evening.
- Only hit “send” if your mother could read it and be proud.
- Establish and enforce consequences for rules violations.
- Offer a clean slate after a consequence has been administered or experienced.
Excerpts From Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Tips To Ensure Security
1 Ensure Strong Passwords on the phone
2 Install Security on All Devices
3 Schedule Regular Backups
4 Understand Your School’s BYOD Policy and Know Your Responsibilities
5 Consider a Digital Contract and Set Limits on Screen Time
6 Keep Up with the Social Media Your Kids are Using – and Talk About the Risks
Ensuring our kids are protected and safe online should be a top priority for our generation of parents.