TipS for kids, phones, and tech

So, your children have started to ask for a cell phone or piece of technology so that they can play games online or access the internet. This can be a scary moment for parents as we all know the dangers of irresponsible internet use. But with the right preparation and involvement, parents can (and should) be able to lead their children to use technology and cell phones in a healthy and responsible manner.

 

Here’s some tips as you navigate this topic with your family.

 

1. DELAY! DELAY! DELAY! This should be the first word that comes to your mind when you consider handing over access to the internet to your children by way of a smartphone. Let’s be honest, your children most likely do not need this piece of technology until they are at least teenagers (not elementary or preteens), and even at that point some serious discussion and considerations need to happen. We as parents have to be willing to say NO to our kids, and stick by it, when we know something is not best for them. So, first step: DELAY. Wait as long as you can to allow your child to have a smartphone.

2. While delaying, consider an alternative. Think about the needs your children actually have, not their wants, and find creative ways to meet those needs. One thing my family has done is that we have a “house phone” that pretty much meets the needs of anything with our children. This phone belongs to the parents, has a place it stays in the house, and can only be used by permission. If a child is going somewhere and may need to call, they can take the house phone. If a child wants to call or text a friend, they can use the house phone. But, the house phone remains in the house, in a public, open space, and is monitored by the parents. This set-up allows for you to delay getting a personal phone for you kids, and also allows your children to experience smartphone use in a proper way with parental oversight.

3. Have the tough conversations and set expectations before giving your child a smartphone. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s this: It is easier to establish rules and expectations beforehand than it is to add them in later. This is why it is essential to be proactive in creating a set of expectations for your child’s use of technology before giving them that piece of technology. Consider creating a short list of expectations that shows how you will partner with your child(ren) to help them navigate smartphone use. The list should be easy to understand, not overly long, and shouldn’t come across as threatening or legalistic. Instead, it should pave the way for future conversations and a mutual agreement on what smartphone will look like for your child(ren).

Here’s a pretty simple example of some possible expectations you could create:

 

4. Always monitor, use screen time controls, and make sure you have app approval enabled. There most likely should never be a time while your child lives in your house that they have free reign with their smartphone. It’s important to always be vigilant in monitoring smartphone use and mentoring your child on its proper handling. Make sure app approvals are set up so that you are aware of every app being downloaded onto their phone, and take the time to research any request to know the benefits, dangers, and access any app will give your child. Be willing to have the tough conversation and ask the tough questions with your children, and again, be willing to say NO if it doesn’t seem appropriate. As your child ages and begins to show more maturity, you can always begin to relax some of that control – but it’s better to start with more than less!

5. Show your kids how phones can be used well. There is so much potential for good when using your smartphone – share those things with them! Discuss ways to care for friends through smartphone use, how to share Jesus, and always highlight the good that can come from it!

With these tips, and open conversation with your children, you can set them up to use smartphones and technology in a God-honoring wa