Many parents let kids use their smartphones without considering the actions a child might take, such as accidental pocket dialing, visiting inappropriate websites or dropping the phone into the toilet. Before handing over your phone or buying one for your child, consider whether it’s a need versus a want. Another consideration is whether your child can handle the responsibility, as smartphones are a privilege, not a requirement.
Teaching Smartphone Use
Today’s kids are tech savvy, but they need to know that smartphones are not toys. Explain what parts of the phone are off-limits, such as Internet browsers or security settings.
Setting the Rules
Help your child understand that smartphones are tools, not toys. The phone should be used for safety foremost and entertainment only when specified by the parents. No-phone zones and times should be established for home and school. Phones should be stored at a central location in the home to limit the temptations of texting and calling.
Setting Usage Limits
Placing limits on phone usage helps prevent addiction to the device. Set rules that make sense for your family. Make specific guidelines around data usage and set alerts so you know when the phone is close to the limits of your data plan. This allows you to remind the kids to curtail their activities for the rest of the month.
Attention to Netiquette
Remind your kids that comments, messages and taunts are as real as words said in person. Tell kids about the ethical use of social media, photos, comments and other behaviors. Talk to them about respecting others and avoiding gossip, bullying or exclusionary comments.
Don’t Ignore the Friends
Talk about what real friends are and that relationships are best done in person. Friendship isn’t about quantity of followers. Show kids how to be present in the moment. Teach them when to put the phone away and engage in real life. Teach them manners about when and where to use the phone.
Explain in frank terms about the importance of online privacy. Show your child how to set up private settings on social networks. Tell them about online predators. Demonstrate how it only takes one click to make a supposedly private text or photo very public. If your child doesn’t want you to see it, he or she shouldn’t post it.
Explain that whatever is posted online becomes permanent. No photo or comment should be posted that your child wouldn’t want everyone to see at any time. Teach kids not to share sexual or risky photos.
Encourage Kids to Slow Down
Teach your kids to pause before posting. This is especially important during times of intense emotions. A cooling down period is essential for clear thinking.
Forbid Texting and Driving
Texting and driving can be deadly. Remind kids that any call or text can be answered later. A vehicular accident can affect their lives, the lives of their friends and countless others. Teach kids to put the phone away or turn it off when they’re driving.
Be Careful When Texting Passwords
Online criminals may send links or downloads with malware or viruses, giving them control of the smartphone. Teach your kids not to text or share passwords or other personal information. Keep up to date on the latest in cyber scams and share them with your kids.
Explain to your kids what “sexting” is and why it’s unacceptable. The text and photos in an explicit message become permanent and can be shared with anyone, including the whole school. In some cases, kids can be charged with crimes and labeled as sex offenders for sexting.
Only Talk with Familiar People
Teach your kids to only answer the phone when they recognize the number of the caller. Criminals or hackers may try to communicate with your child and gain intimate knowledge of their personal information. Not talking to strangers applies in person as well as on the phone, and there is no such thing as anonymity. Also, warn your child about online dangers, such as cyberbullying, and apps and services that aren’t really free, and teach them how to deal with these problems as well.
Not Every App Is Legitimate
Fake apps are out there. In 2012, Google explained that it has cut down on illegitimate apps that look like known products, but as soon as one site is shut down, another one pops up. Teach kids to read reviews of apps before downloading anything. The reviews often alert you to nefarious situations.
Beware of Hidden Charges
One of the latest trends aimed at getting your money is to create games or downloads that are free, but require money for upgrades and premium services. Your child should also be aware that clicking on any ads can result in unwanted charges and subscriptions to services or content that is inappropriate. Kids may not realize that tapping on the lock three times or saying “yes” to an extra results in a charge to their parent’s or grandparent’s credit card.
Explain in clear detail to your child about what will happen if any of the rules around smartphone use are broken. Consider classic consequences such as taking the phone away as well as other punishments that will make them think twice about breaking the rules in the first place. Become familiar with online lingo and slang and stay on top of all the activities and people in your child’s life. Stay on top of the latest criminal attempts at scamming smartphone owners and keep your children up to date as well. Being proactive can help you and your child have a positive experience with this technology.
About the Author
Patricia Dimick is a wife, mom, advocate to her kid, writer, passionate coffee drinker, table tennis player, big fan of nature and DIY jobs. You can reach her @patricia_dimick.
Attached Photo: Image credit to daveynin on Flickr
When did you allow your child to have their own cell phone? Did you set specific rules and boundaries for using it?
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