A cell phone is no longer just an accessory or a social status statement. It is now embraced as a necessity. These phones are desired by a lot of people, especially the younger generation. Aside from the basic functions of calling and texting, these devices let users take photos, browse online, and store gigabytes worth of data. Parents and guardians, however, have certain reservations when it comes to buying their kid their first cell phone.
The Right Time To Introduce A Smartphone
Some studies state that it’s okay to start introducing cell phones to young kids aged 8-10. Others say it’s more practical to buy them a cell phone when they’re older, between the ages of 11 and 13. Then, there’s the wait until 8th campaign which encourages parents to wait until their children reach the eighth grade.
Harvard University, however, has released an article on when to give your child a smartphone. They claim that age shouldn’t be a basis; rather, the kid’s preparedness to own one should matter the most.
We believe it’s safe to assume that there is no specific “right time” that’s suitable for all kids in general. Getting your child their first phone isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. After all, every kid is unique, and their parents know them better than anyone else. It all boils down to the parents’ or the guardians’ discretion. This is, of course, taking into consideration objective and unbiased observations.
Avoid buying them a phone just because they want it and you can afford it. Never buy them a phone just because their friends already have theirs and that you think they’re missing out. Get them a phone only when you’re certain that they need one and are responsible enough to have one. It doesn’t mean that you’ll just sit back and wait until that time comes. You can gradually introduce it to them or slowly welcome them into the digital world. As parents and guardians, you have the biggest roles to play in conditioning and nurturing them to be ready for such things.
Parents’ Before Giving Smartphone Checklist
If you’re already considering buying your kids their first-ever cell phone, be sure to cover these important aspects first.
It’s important to lay down some ground rules before giving your child their first phone. Make them feel like they have a say on these sets of rules and that you’re on the same page. You can more effectively instill ownership and responsibility if you succeed in making them feel that you are trusting them. Make them understand that these rules are only meant to guide and protect them and that they only in place until they prove that they can fully manage on their own.
The most basic things you should cover are when and how the phone should be used. Establish a reasonable amount of allowed screen time per day. Depending on your parenting style, impose some consequences should a rule be violated, or you could adopt positive reinforcement.
Kids nowadays fuss about various types of phones, such as the latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. Some parents tend to oversee this step, but it’s crucial to carefully think through which specific phone type, brand, or model you should give your child. They don’t need the latest version or the most stylish one. In fact, they don’t need an “all-in-one” or a “fully-packed” smartphone. All they need is a basic phone with a functional sim card and a reasonably long battery life. You may also want to take into consideration a phone’s OS security features and built-in parental controls.
Before you hand them the phone, set it to a “safe mode”. Meaning, all possible access to inappropriate apps, sites, or content must be blocked. Certain settings must be disabled or enabled. Set a PIN, or register your fingerprint or face so that you also have access to it.
If you find it necessary, install security software to guarantee data security on your child’s device. You could also avail of a reliable and trustworthy monitoring app to help you track your child’s phone activities. These apps can extract the data and feed it remotely to your device or online account in real-time. In this case, you can oversee their phone use and immediately address inappropriate behaviors.
There’s no better conditioning than equipping them with the right knowledge. Teach them phone and internet etiquette – from the unspoken rules of sending text messages to the obvious standards of social media use. Mold them into responsible and respectful users.
Make them understand the do’s and don’ts of phone usage, as well as the potential risks of the virtual world. Discuss huge issues like data privacy and security in an easy-to-understand manner. Let them know of the reality of the digital world. Train them to be smart and wise users.
What To Do After Giving Your Child Their First Phone
Yes, your responsibility doesn’t stop after giving your kid their first cell phone. In fact, it’s barely started. Now that they get to experience firsthand everything you’ve prepared them for, you must continue guiding and assisting them.
Revisiting Ground Rules
Once they are using their phone, see to it that the rules you’ve agreed upon are always strictly followed, and if needed, remind your child of them. Make them feel that owning a cell phone is big of a deal that comes with great responsibility. Be crystal clear that you’re serious about those rules and always keep the authority on your side. Most importantly, to make sure your child follows the rules you’ve set, you have to keep your end of the deal as well. Be a role model during both screen time and screen-free time; walk the talk and be consistent.
As your child gets older and more responsible with their phone use, be aware that the ground rules and consequences for violating them will have to be adjusted.
Physically checking their phone should be part of the rules you’ve created. Be specifically clear though why you have to do this as you wouldn’t want your child to feel like you’re intruding on their privacy or that you don’t trust them. When checking on their cell phone, ensure that the parental controls you’ve previously set are still the same. If deemed necessary, gradually enable previously disabled features or vice versa. If you’ve previously installed a monitoring app, you might no longer need to do this. Regardless of your chosen monitoring method, physically or remotely, what matters is that you conduct regular checks of their phone use and content.
Be Privy To Trends
To properly educate your children, you must be constantly educating yourself. Pay attention to the tech world and their world. Take time to learn and understand the trends in the digital world as most probably, your child’s participating in them. Explore the virtual world so you would know firsthand what it’s like. Personally experience the online platforms or the apps they use. After all, you can’t teach your child what you don’t know.
Constantly Educate Them
The education part should never end. Continuously teach and assist your child in their real and virtual lives. Stay in touch with them and be involved as much as you can. Establish an open and positive line of communication, and encourage them to ask questions. Make them feel comfortable around you in a way that they can confidently talk with you about anything. If you can, make the whole learning process fun and memorable. Remember that all the things you teach them relating to the virtual world could also benefit them in the real world.
Give Them Some Privacy
Most importantly, give them some privacy, especially when it comes to using their devices. By respecting their personal space and drawing some boundaries, you’re more likely to prevent teenage rebellion. The moment you decide that your child can handle having their own phone use, you start entrusting them with bigger responsibilities. You have to respect that; you have to live with that. Sure, there will be endless worries, but if you’re confident that you’ve been doing your part as their parent, you’ll find the courage to let them go. Allow them to experience their childhood and teenage years in their desired ways.
As your kids grow older, they start becoming their own person. If you’re doing parenting right, they start to mature and become responsible young adults. Hence, see to it that as time passes by, you also adjust the restrictions you’ve set for them. Gradually let them live by their own rules.
No matter how fast you both age, your parent-child relationship will still be there. One way or another, your child will still come to you for your insight and advice.