How to be Smart about our Kids & Their Smart Phones

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kim d.JPG

Technology is changing fast and parents need to keep up with it and our kids! Parent Educator and Family Coach, Kim DeMarchi gave us tips on how to be smart about our kids using smart phones! Click here for more information about Kim.

Should parents place limits on cell phone use for their children and what are some of yours? Absolutely! Smart phones aren't just another toy; they are a computer! Some limits should be negotiable such as what games are the kids allowed to download and if they are allowed to take them on long car rides. Some are non-negotiable such as not paying for any downloads and not allowing phones at the dinner table and docking them downstairs before bedtime.

Should parents utilize parental controls on cell phones?

Yes! But, I will also say that the best parental control is to be an active, engaged parent! As a parent, my best line of defense is myself. Talking with my kids and communicating about everything related to cell phones is most important. But because this is uncharted territory for both parents and children, in most cases, there are Parental Controls on phones that can be set up on the phones. Then, you can enable the restrictions you want, such as: restricting the use of Safari, or iTunes, or installing apps. You can also prevent access to specific content areas, such as: R rated movies, music with foul language, etc...You can also buy apps for child safety, apps that email parents if child visited any questionable sights. There are apps to help with these things such as: Phone Sheriff, My Mobile Watchdog, Screen Retriever, Mobile Spy, and so many others. Some of this depends on the age of your child, your comfort level as the parent, and your child's responsibility level.

Should parents know their child's password for cell phones and isn't that an invasion of privacy? Yes, my children got their cell phones when they started middle school and they needed to give me their passwords on their phones every time they changed them. Morals are developing and it's okay if a child knows their parents know their passwords. A child thinking, "I wonder what my parents will think of this post?" isn't such a bad thing. Knowing the passwords let the child know that you will be checking periodically. This isn't about invading your child's privacy, it's about teaching them how to navigate this new tool they've been given. I've heard it been called, The Trust But Verify System --- meaning, "I trust you at the age you are, and will make sure you are using the technology in an appropriate way for your age." It's not spying; it's participating and dialoging.

What is your analogy of driving a car and using a cell phone?

When a child turns 16, we don't just buy them a car, hand over the keys, and say, "Good luck, I hope you don't have any big accidents or injure yourself or anyone else. I hope you can figure it out." NO! We get them driver's lessons; they take driver's education in school, we take them out and teach them, we give them practice, they study the rules of the road, and ultimately, they take two tests. And if they pass both the written and driving test, then they are given access to being a driver, and even still there are restrictions on who they can drive, where they can drive and what hours they can drive, etc... NEVER should we give our child a smart phone and say, "Good luck, you've never had one, you don't really know how to navigate it, you haven't been taught social media etiquette, but hey, go for it! Hope too many people don't get hurt along the way."

Should parents monitor and control their own use?

Of course! We are our child's best teacher. It's not what we say, it's what we do. If I don't want my child to text while driving, then I must not text while driving. If I don't want my child to answer their phone or text during dinner, then I better not bring my phone to the dinner table. If I don't want them to have their ringer on in the movie theater, then I better have mine on silent. Kids emulate everything we do!

What is your agreement about cell phones in your house with your children?

We actually have a lot of points to our agreement, and it has evolved and will continue to do so over time. It's valuable to create the agreement together so you get more buy in from the kids. Some include:

We will pay for the phone and monthly charges. You will pay for any apps and music that you buy, and repairs if needed. And chargers that are lost!

When we call you, please answer the phone. We aren't calling to chit chat and we don't want to be screened.

Use the same respectful manners on your phone that you use in person: say hello, please, thank you. Be kind and understanding. If you wouldn't say it to someone in person, refrain from saying it via text. #11. Be aware of the photos you post of yourself and others on social media. They are forever. And, please Limit the number of "selfies" posted.

There will be times that we insist you put your phone away. Family time is important.

Do you have any clever ideas to help with usage and over usage?

*No Phone Zone (NEVER at the dining table during ANY meals!)

*Tech Time Outs ("no tech tuesdays") OR ("Be with the friends you're with")

*Establish Unplugged Times for whole family (family vacations, Sun night movie rental, excursions)

*Homework and Chores first, then screen time

*Dock at the docking station at a certain time each evening (downstairs in kitchen by 10pm)

*Be "friends" with children on social media sites (ie: Instagram so I can see everything that gets posted)