In today's digital age, cell phones and especially smartphones are a necessity. Quite literally, it's pretty hard to find a regular, old flip phone these days! Figuratively, integration in the workplace and social world is making it increasingly difficult to avoid smart phones. They will continue to become more integrated into our lives...you can read more about Moore's Law here. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't put any thought into giving our children unhindered access to the world!
First, let's acknowledge the struggle. You may feel pressure because of other parents giving their children phones: "But [so-and-so] has a phoneeee." You may feel pressure because your older child has a phone: "But why does [your other older and more mature child] get oneeee." Or maybe you just feel the stress of wanting to communicate with your child. Whatever it may be, you need a cell phone policy. And here's why!
The Dangers of Cell Phones and Social Media
1. Your child has access to the world - With a smart phone with internet browsers and app stores, your kid has to everything that's out there...yes, everything. There are some pretty intense things online that you probably haven't talked about with your child and that they probably aren't developmentally able to handle. I recommend this refresher on what's out there. It's one of my favorite articles on the dangers of social media.
2. The world has access to your child - That's right, it goes both ways. So while you may be able to protect them from strangers in person, adults with ill-intent are able to reach out and interact with your children online. They can even send them unsolicited photos or texts. Some even will pose as another child just to meet up with your child or worse, take them.
3. Unlimited screen time leads to undeveloped brains! - This is most certainly true of young children but also for teenagers! Encourage your children to get outside, or better yet, find the time to go do something together. You can read our article on this topic here as you #investinyourchild.
4. Cell phones can be a huge distraction in school and at home. Setting a policy helps to avoid some unnecessary discipline issues in school or around the dinner table.
Cell Phone Rules to Consider
1. Set an age limitation. Many believe that high school is the right time for a cell phone, and I certainly see the merits of this point of view. I would first consider your child's maturity level and how they handle responsibility. I would also consider the tone you would like to set if you have younger children as well, because rest assured, they will look to their older sibilings for when they should receive a phone.
2. Create a no social media policy. (At least until you feel they are prepared to handle that world on their own). Social media is dangerous first and foremost for the reasons talked about in the article linked above, but also because it often leads to anxiety disorders and other myopic views of self-image which are damaging.
3. Talk about what happens when you post photos or videos, especially of private things. While children find technology intuitive, they still need to be told and reminded often that what we share can be seen by other people, spiral, and get mass-shared, and can affect future employment.
4. Set boundaries on time. Screen time has been proven to affect brain development and should be limited for people of all ages, but the teenage or adolescent years are a good time to set the standard. You can start doing this with video games and tv at a younger age, and it will help set up your cell phone policy for success!
5. Spot check your child's device regularly for searches, messages, app downloads, and usage time (which can be accessed in settings on many iphones). They will do their best to cover up what they are doing which is why it is important to stay up-to-date on what social media apps to avoid and how some apps can be used to disguise the true app (a photo storage app that looks like a calculator, etc.). You may even consider signing a cell phone contract. This could demonstrate mutual trust that will empower your child to step up and meet your expectations.
Ultimately, the right age to give your child a cell phone is up to you. You know your child and their responsibility and maturity level so it's up to you to decide how a cell phone fits into their life.
The important thing is that you think about it and communicate with your partner and child. Think ahead and set a cell phone policy that makes everything else you would do for internet discipline easier or unnecessary!
The ultimate goal is to teach children to be self-sufficient and that includes protecting what they consume online. Your example will pave the way for their success as teenagers, young adults, and ultimately parents. Now that's Purposeful Parenting.
This week's Purposeful Parenting Action
1. Register for our first free workshop now! You can do so right HERE!
2. Talk to your partner and evaluate what a cell phone policy would look like for you.
This week's Ron Clark rule
Rule 41 "Answer the phone in a polite and appropriate manner."
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