The time has come for you as parents to seriously consider a smartphone for your tween or pre-tween. You’ve been skirting the issue for months if not years – does she really need one? How about we go with one of those kid-phones-that’s-not-really-a-phone? Will we lose him forever if we give in? You are, of course, worried for good reason. A child’s first smartphone is both a step towards independence, and a cannon ball launch into the adult world. Before lighting that fuse, Village Social offers parents a friendly reminder to take a few minutes and reflect together on how to model healthy digital behavior for your child.
When you’re ready, we’re ready to help you navigate this new technology journey. First, think about your family dynamics and what battles already exist in your household. Do you constantly fight over too much time playing video games or watching TV? If so, you’ll want to consider a Smartphone Agreement that works for overall electronic usage as well.
A smartphone agreement (with terms that are first discussed as a family before setting in stone) will help you to clearly communicate expectations for responsible usage and allows your child to negotiate terms that he/she believes are fair and do-able. It’s an opportunity to build trust and a stronger bond within the family and [hello] who doesn’t want that? Getting buy-in from every family member will be important. Here are some quick tips for making a Smartphone Agreement really work:
More important than the fine print details of a signed agreement is a clear understanding of the “Why’s” – Why your child is being allowed to have a device, Why an agreement is needed, and Why there are expectations and consequences for breaking rules.
Discuss the valid reasons for why your child needs his/her own phone. If primarily for safety and communication, emphasize how the phone is expected to be used. For one member of our community, their, son, Chet got his first phone at age 10, in 5th grade, the year he started at a brand new school 17 miles away, with a driver and pick up time that changed daily. Having a smartphone allowed Chet’s parents to track his exact location and agree on what games Chet could play on his phone while he waited for a ride. If you are also open to having a smartphone be your child’s social connection to friends and broader entertainment vehicle to various apps, talk through which apps are acceptable, which are not, and why you’re setting limits. Feel free to play the “Well in our house” card to explain how your house rules may differ from a friend’s, who may have more lenient smartphone rules in their family.
Parents need an agreement too! We love Collin Kartchner’s powerful Tedx Talk discussing risks kids face on social media, and how modeling healthy digital behavior transforms families. Just like adopting healthy eating and exercise habits, if you, as a parent, can be a good digital role model, you’re showing your child how to live a healthy life. In this case, it’s his/her socio-emotional well-being that’s at stake. Plus, if you support your child’s commitment to the family Smartphone Agreement by honoring it too, you are building mutual trust and connecting on a new level as a family. So, listen to that podcast, scroll Facebook or shop online later when the kids are in bed, and enjoy a little quality device-free family time whenever you can.
Implementing your family Smartphone Agreement doesn’t need to be difficult or time consuming. Once you have discussed all the Why’s and overall terms, Village Social has you covered with three options to complete a customized agreement electronically, including Basic, Detailed and Parent versions. Check out our Tech-Savvy Agreement Wizard and work together as a family to create a personalized, simply-stated agreement that matches how your family actually lives – this is a great way to avoid just another document in the stack of papers piled up for filing someday.
As kids grow older, their technology needs will change, and so should their Smartphone Agreement. Your child will become more emotionally mature and will likely ask for additional exposure to social media and other cyberspace platforms. Expect to revisit your Smartphone Agreement from time to time, and to be flexible with making revisions to it along your family’s technology journey. Ready for more? Visit Tech Journey for additional tips from Village Social, your private social network, committed to helping parents to be good role models with kids who use technology with intention.