Today, kids are born digital natives, and parents have the responsibility to teach them the right skills to thrive as digital citizens once they leave our care. Since the iPhone was first released in 2007, and the majority of kids owned devices in 2011, getting a personal smartphone has become a right of passage for kids at an increasingly young age. The average kid in 2019, owns a smartphone at the age of 11, down from 13 in 2015.
This has been a grand experiment we've conducted on our kids, giving 24/7 access not only to their friends but also 4 billion people around the globe and all the good and terrible content the internet has to offer. With over a decade of data, we now have the evidence that shows the tragic consequences of giving our kids unlimited access to these increasingly powerful computers (the last thing kids do is make a phone call with these 'phones').
To keep things in perspective, smartphones aren't going anywhere and are powerful tools when used with intention and purpose. Our challenge as parents for the new decade is how to raise responsible digital citizens and combat the toxic digital culture that currently exists.
Waiting to give your kid a smartphone made a ton of sense a few years ago when devices didn't have built-in controls for parents. Now with iOS Screen Time and Android Family Link, parents have a free and easy way to manage kid's phone usage.
We believe smartphones can be used responsibility at any age, but we also understand the risks that unlimited access creates. That's why we believe in giving kids the right technology at the right time. Life is a journey in learning. From walking to riding bikes to driving a car. These aren't just milestones in skills, but are also milestones in how kids experiences the world, and technology is very similar. When used safely, smartphones give instant access to loved ones and an ability to learn about the world in ways that have never before been possible.
Plain and simple, RT2 is all about giving age-appropriate technology access and being involved in their digital life to teach them how to use it with intention. Our responsibility as parents isn't to provide absolute safety for our kids (except when they're infants). Our responsibility is to teach our kids values and skills to become happy, independent adults. Using technology with intention means you use it because you want something from it. Whether it's to communicate, accomplish a task or be entertained. Kids should learn to use technology with intention too, and Village Social can help pave the way for your family.
Think of all the ways your kids can use a smartphone in a positive and productive way -- it’s empowering to have instant access to apps that help them mature, every day. Your son can check the weather so he knows what to wear to school, or your daughter, having just made the traveling soccer team, can view the practice schedule that her coach has posted on Team Snap. Teachers use apps, like ClassDojo to communicate classroom news. How great would it be to get to a place where your maturing child can take the reins on informing you about the important scheduling and details that rules their universe? It’s a real possibility and starts with their ability to use tech responsibly.
However, we also recognize there’s a very destructive downside whenever technology exploits our human nature's ability to harness the good without succumbing to a darker side. For instance, “Big tech" offers "free" products that aren't really free – we pay a price for giving up our social identities. In our hyper-connected world, it can be more difficult to unplug and re-connect with our humanity. Add to that, the fact that technology can be addictive and used for sinister purposes – what are we willingly getting our kids into?
Currently, technology skills are being taught backwards, a “nothing, then all” approach. It's common for parents to wait as long as possible to give their kids a true smartphone. While we applaud parents for being informed and making an 'unpopular' decision that helps protect their kids, the real goal needs to be taking small steps to teach digital skills. It's dangerous to wait to give your child a phone and then give access to the entire Internet and unlimited apps all at once.
If you decide to 'wait', your kid will still need time to learn skills by making small mistakes before they have the ability to make large ones.
In today's digital age, kids are often exposed to digital learning at school and with friends in elementary school. With that backdrop, we think it's best for parents to start introducing technology and even smartphones sooner rather than later to help build skills early.
Advantages of teaching your kid 'early'
It takes a village comes from African proverbs about how an entire community must provide a safe and healthy environment for kids to learn and develop. We named our company Village, because we believe kids need a healthy digital village to learn the skills they need in an environment safe from predators, fake expectations, and addictive content that destroys productive potential.
We believe it's time to close the chapter on social media where it's more about public broadcasting of one's life and move to a private social network where you share the things that matter with specific people.
We recognize and embrace that kids use digital tools to socialize instead of going to shopping malls, parks or friends houses (for example) like their parents. Studies show that when social media is used for the narrow purpose of engaging with real friends, it can actually be a positive for teen's happiness and well-being.
The social problem is that kids are using adult apps such as Instagram and Snapchat that have a myriad of risks and temptations that the developing adolescent brain can't handle. Snapchat, for example, designed the snapstreak vanity metric to addict kids to using the app everyday. It doesn't help our kids build friendships, but rather creates anxiety and is noted by ER doctors as a contributor to attempted suicides.
A social solution is required that is part technology and part parenting. The technology part is Village Social, which is the only app available designed to be fun for teens yet safe and healthy. The parenting part requires that parents set firm limits for kids that prevents Instagram from being used too much too early. Parents can prevent Snapchat altogether as there's no justifiable reason for kids to use the app designed for sexting and now being used by drug dealers and others looking to target kids without being detected.
Waiting to give your kid a smartphone made a ton of sense a few years ago when devices didn't have built-in controls for parents. Now with iOS Screen Time and Android Family Link, parents have a free and easy way to mange kids phone usage.
Parents who use the balanced approach can set a healthy standard for communities. If you wait to give your kid a phone, the standard will be set by other parents who don't have limits and Instagram and Snapchat will continue to rule our kids' digital lives.
When you say 'no' to Instagram and Snapchat for your kid's wellbeing, it's helpful to have a solution of what to use instead. Village Social is the alternative to social media. Village provides the benefits of social media of being able to share and connect with friends, but Village is not social media. There is no content discovery that leads to endless feeds, no vanity metrics, and no connecting with random people.
We designed Village Social for our own 4 kids. We believe it's the right balance of empowering kids while also keeping them safe. With the built-in parental tools you can see with whom and how much your kid is messaging, and you have controls to customize his or her experience. Plus there's peace of mind from automatic blocking of sending nude pictures, and optional alerts for suggestive images and bad language.
Kids appreciate that they can connect with friends with a fun and modern app. Plus teens actually appreciate not having to deal with unsolicited sexual images and requests. It's a place they can be genuine without the crap.
Like digital training wheels