Before you buy a cell phone for your child, read this!
Smartphones are a technological marvel that in addition to being in the palm of your hand, has computing power that shames our old computers. They have so many uses that make a Swiss Army Knife look like a kid’s toy, whether it’s navigation, camera, weather, music players or constant Internet access.
It’s exactly all that ability that makes it so difficult for us to knock them down, so much so that it’s almost a cliché to bother people with their faces buried in their phones. And as addictive as they are to adults, they are doubly child friendly.
I have heard that many parents have promised not to buy a smartphone for their children, but only when they realize that the lack of it is damaging the social life of their children. And honestly, no one can blame them.
Like it or not, much of the social interaction between children from 9 years old happens with the smartphone, and simply not having one can condemn your child to become socially excluded.
Does this mean that you should suffer in silence while your child is moving away during dinnertime, with the hand figuratively glued to the phone? No. There are several ways to set boundaries and educate your child about using your smartphone that can help reduce the excesses as well as protect you when it is used.
Control the charger
Keep the charger with you and choose when it is appropriate for your child to charge the smartphone. It’s okay if your phones run out of power when you’re at home. Just make sure they have enough energy when they are at school or at a friend’s house so you can contact them or locate them if necessary.
You should not leave your phones recharging at night as this is a waste and there is no need for the phone to be at full capacity in the morning. If the phone is almost unloaded, you can connect it for a few minutes at breakfast (as an advantage, your child will not play with it at the table).
Sleep deprivation is becoming an increasingly alarming problem associated with the use of smartphones between pre-teens and adolescents. How do smartphones affect sleep? Simple:
Most children keep the phone in their hand when they are in bed because they use it as an alarm clock. Easy access to the phone can be a difficult temptation, and many children spend their time sleeping by sending and reading instant messages. The use of the phone is mentally stimulating, which can cause restless sleep.
Ask your children to put their phones in the living room before going to bed, and if they need an alarm clock, buy an alarm clock (no matter how old-fashioned).
Install a parental control application
Controlling remotely using your child’s phone may not be of any benefit to him, but it is usually a necessary step.
There are some great parental control apps to download that allow you to remotely lock your child’s cell phone, limit the apps they can use or block them, know your child’s location, limit cell phone usage, control Internet access and grant you access to the child’s message history.
Make sure that you are not being too arrogant and that you are not undermining your child’s trust in you. One way to avoid undue dramas is to lay down firm ground rules ahead of time. Also, make sure they understand that you will have all this access and not “surprise” them with the power you have over your cell phones.
Educate your kids to be smart with their phones
Although you may want to have the option of setting a clear limit for your children and being able to impose their will, it is always best that they understand your concerns and internalize them. In this way, they feel empowered when they are being careful and do not resent being intrusive in their use of the cell phone.
Teach them about the dangers of being online, tell them that they can (and should) always turn to you if something happens and demonstrate their points clearly and objectively. A good demonstration is that of parents and teachers showing children how easy it is to spread information online and how many people can view it. For example:
A great way to educate kids about Web safety is to get them to take a digital citizenship course. There are many free courses for school children.
Know what to look for
Make sure you understand the dangers before you presume your children’s education. If you are making your child take a digital citizenship course, consider doing one yourself.
Conduct research on Web security, cyberbullying, and the many ways people can attack their children through their cell phones (extortion, location tracking, etc.). Get involved in using your child’s phone and watch for signs of trouble.