6 Ways to Promote Healthy Phone Habits for Kids
Today’s children have more access to technology than ever before. With smartphones, tablets, and computers, keeping kids away from tech can feel impossible.
Excessive time spent online can have a negative impact on one’s well-being. In addition, more time online means more possible exposure to less-savory elements of the internet. It’s important for kids to learn to be tech-savvy so they stay safe and healthy. Buying your child their first phone is a great opportunity to promote safe online behavior. You can teach your kids phone safety so they’re prepared for the responsibility of phone ownership.
Here are six tips to help teach your kids how to stay safe on their phones:
1. Do Your Research
You can’t teach your kids phone safety if you don’t know the latest information. Before talking to your children, educate yourself. Read articles about what kids are doing online and the risks associated with internet use.
If you have the time, consider taking online courses specifically designed to teach parents about cyberbullying prevention. You should also do research on a safe phone for kids. Then, when the time comes to buy, you know you’re making a good decision.
The more research you do, the more you’ll be able to relate to your kids. Not to mention, the easier it’ll be to set clear and specific guidelines.
2. Make Sure Your Child Is Ready
The average child gets their first phone between the ages of 12 and 13. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a tween without a phone, but that doesn’t mean your children need one.
As a parent, it’s your decision whether to buy their first phone and, if so, when. While it might seem like “every parent is doing it,” that doesn’t mean you have to give in to pressure. If you don’t think your child is mature enough to handle having a mobile phone, wait until they are.
You’re probably asking, “How will I know when they’re ready?” This comes down to your judgment. If your child isn’t able to handle responsibilities at home or make good decisions, they’re not ready for a phone.
Your child is mature enough for a phone if they can create guidelines with you for how they’ll use it.
3. Have an Open Dialogue
A child’s first phone is a right of passage, similar to learning how to drive or going off to college. All of these events are scary for parents because it takes away some of their control.
If your child has their own phone, they’ll be able to send messages and call their friends without you knowing what’s being discussed. It can be scary, but that’s why it’s important to have an open dialogue with your child first. You will want to set clear expectations regarding their phone use.
Make sure your kids know about cyberbullying, cybercriminals, and how everything that’s said online stays online . . . forever.
4. Set Guidelines
After you have a conversation, set guidelines with your child on how and when they’ll use their phone. Instead of just laying down the law, talk to your kids about the limitations you’re setting. For instance, don’t just say, “No phones at bedtime.” Explain how the light emitted from a phone disrupts the natural sleep cycle, making it difficult to get adequate rest.
Along with setting guidelines, you should also discuss consequences. It’s important your children know ahead of time what will happen if they violate a rule. For instance, make it clear that you’ll take away their phone if you catch them using it at bedtime.
Regardless of the consequences you choose, make sure you clearly state them to your child. This way, if they break a rule, they know exactly what to expect. You can also write these guidelines and consequences down and leave them somewhere visible so everyone has access.
5. Implement Parental Controls
There’s a lot of debate on whether parental controls protect children or invade their privacy. The truth is, they can do both depending on how they’re used.
As a parent, you want to keep your children safe. But that’s not always easy to do. With social media, it’s all too easy for kids to stumble upon something they’re too young to handle. By implementing parental controls, you’re able to manage what your children have access to.
With that said, to avoid invading your child’s privacy, make sure you’re upfront and honest about what you’re doing. Explain that you’re blocking certain websites that are more dangerous than others.
6. Create Tech-Free Zones
Technology is everywhere and phones have become a staple in most of our lives. And while smartphones are beneficial, too much phone usage can cause serious mental health problems. This is especially true in children, who can be more impressionable than older adults.
According to Common Sense Media, 50% of teens feel addicted to their phones and say they can’t function without them. Tech addiction is serious because it causes individuals to become consumed with what’s on a screen instead of real life. Too much phone time can keep kids from spending time with their friends, paying attention in class, and getting adequate rest. Children who spend more time than average on screen may also be more prone to loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
To keep your child free from addiction, create tech-free zones. For instance, eliminate the use of tech from the dinner table so you’re able to connect with your child. Make a child’s bedroom a no-phone zone. If your family goes on vacation, suggest leaving smartphones behind. By limiting your child’s use of tech throughout the day, you keep them from becoming too reliant on their device.
Remember, these tech-free zones should apply to everyone in the house. If your child isn’t allowed to use their phone at the dinner table, you shouldn’t be either.
Teaching your kids phone safety isn’t easy, but it’s important. By using the tips above, you’ll be better prepared to have a conversation with your child about safe phone use.