Every kid has a smartphone these days, right? Well, almost. Pew Research Center's 2015 Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview shows 73 percent of American teens ages 13 to 17 have or have access to a smartphone. That statistic may not surprise you, but a recent Nielsen survey shows even 34 percent of 10-year-olds have a smartphone service plan.
Many of you have kids in your household carting the world around in the palms of their hands. Take these steps to keep children smartphone safe and keep yourself smartphone sane.
Half of all teens in a Common Sense Media poll admitted to feeling addicted to their devices. Sometimes young people (and adults) just don't have the discipline to limit how much they use their phones. Parents can help. Set specific times when screens should be put away. One possibility would be no phones for an hour right after school, or to set a certain time at night when kids plug in phones to charge (even better if that happens in a parent's room). Pick times that seem realistic and make sure to follow through.
Another easy way to limit smartphone time is to set certain locations where phones aren't allowed. At the dinner table or in the car are possible places. Many moms and dads enforce a 'no phones in bedrooms' rule, which is a great way to make sure kids aren't using their phones into the wee hours of the night.
Make sure your children share their passwords with you. This will warrant a good heart-to-heart about why parents are responsible to help their kids learn how to use tech safely. Explain to kids that while they are learning to navigate the digital world, a parent may do spot checks once in a while to make sure all is well in smartphone land.
There's nothing like the peace of mind knowing your child is on their way home around curfew, or that they made it safely to a friend's house. Chat with your kids about why you need to have the ability to check where they are. Play up the fact that it will minimize the nagging texts they'll receive. Use Apple's Find My Friends app by having each child share their location with you from their phone (you can make this permanent by going through the Restrictions section on Settings). The Google Play store also has several good apps that serve the same purpose for Android phones. Find My Friends is a good free one to try.
Kids download and delete apps every day. It's almost impossible for parents to keep up without some high tech help. Family Sharing for iPhone (Settings> [your name] and tap Family Sharing) requires permission from the family organizer before a child can buy or download anything. Android users have the same ability through the Play Store app (tap Menu>Account>Family>Manage family members).
After parents do their research and decide to give permission, it's time for mom and dad to get on there as well. The best way to understand the glories and dangers of any app is to use it. By doing so, parents will be able — without being intrusive — to monitor what their kids (and their kids' friends) post. A 2017 Common Sense Media survey found the majority of teens who use Facebook have friended their parents on that platform, but not so much on other networks like Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter.
A couple of years ago, researchers asked teenagers what technology rules they would set for their parents if they could. The most popular responses might be tough to read. One asked that moms and dads be present instead of staring at their screens all the time, another wanted their parents to have other interests besides those that involve a screen. If we are begging our children to have lives beyond their screens, we have to walk the walk. If we don't, it's reasonable for them to consider us high-tech hypocrites.