If your child was given a smartphone over the holidays there is a good chance you were asked to set it up right away. After all, what kid can wait to get on their phone! As you begin to navigate the thorny world of parental smartphone monitoring here are some tips to get you off of the right foot:
1) Sign a Contract: Common Sense Media has a device contract intended for kids and parents to sign. It contains useful guidelines for responsible device use. Talk over each point and sign together. Display the contract somewhere that it is easy to review. With this contract, the boundaries are clear as are consequences if rules aren’t followed.
2) Monitoring Social Media: As we’ve discussed before social media can be a minefield for kids. There are a wide variety of apps that can potentially be used inappropriately for bullying, sexting, or by sexual predators. Have a straightforward talk with your kids about each app they download and how you plan to monitor them together. Social media can be exciting and powerful for kids, but they still will need guidance as they begin to navigate that world.
3) Time Limits: There are varying opinions about how much screen time is too much, but the general consensus from experts is that it should be limited, especially around bedtime. There are several apps that allow to parents to turn off screens after a set time limit. Alternatively, kids can be asked to demonstrate responsibility and turn off phones after a certain amount of time.
4) Download Approval: New apps seem to debut all the time. Set up a system so your kids can’t download new apps or games without your approval. And, of course, before you approve something be sure to research any potential concerns or pitfalls of the app so you understand its capabilities and cause for parental concern.
While all these guidelines will help set the tone for responsible smartphone use, it is still imperative that parents monitor phones closely. Despite best intentions it is almost impossible to monitor a child’s phone in real time. Keep the discussions frequent and ongoing in the interest of safety and safe smartphone use.