Making the decision to set your kid up with a phone can be nerve-wracking. Worrying about cyberbullying, internet safety, and screen time can drain you more than a phone battery. While worrying is just part of parenting, there are things you can do to ease your nerves. In doing so, you’ll also equip your kids with lifelong phone safety skills.
One best practice you can implement is setting up regular phone reviews with your kids. A phone review is simply a time you set aside to have a conversation about their tech use. Pair this conversation with a weekly calendar review, and it’ll feel more natural as opposed to an interrogation. You’ll create a transparent, honest environment to talk about what’s been going on in their lives and on their phone. To get started, consider these six conversation starters as you set your first phone review with your kid.
1. Usage Habits and Time Limits
Chances are you already have a set of rules set around your child’s phone usage. If you don’t, it may be time to set some clear expectations around how frequently they use their phone. Setting these boundaries early will help keep phone use in check. It will also reinforce tasks your child needs to do like homework, chores, and rest.
Chat with your kids about how well they’ve been sticking to the limits you agreed to. If they’ve faltered, talk about what happened and ask them how they’d like to get on track. Allowing them to lead the way to a solution can be empowering. Kids don’t often get to make a lot of decisions. So including them in the conversation helps them realize their own agency. In asking them how to fix the problem, they correct their behavior independently, without your nagging.
2. Internet Safety
Talk with your child about the internet sites they like to go to for fun and school. Have your child offer up this information and ask probing questions in a curious, fun way. Your child will likely feel inclined to show you what they’re talking about to help you see what they see. Using this approach, your child can lead the tour and you won’t resort to digging through their search history.
If you want to avoid dealing with internet-enabled phone use altogether, you can. Consider a cell phone for kids that excludes internet access. Instead, corral internet use to the family computer where you can supervise everyone safely. You can always introduce mobile internet at a later time when you’re comfortable and your child is developmentally ready.
3. Appropriate Texting and Calls
Texts are often sent frequently and feverishly, no matter your age. Unlike writing a letter or drafting an email, texts are easy to send and even easier to misuse. Check in with your kid and discuss how frequently they text their friends and what they talk about. Come from a place of curiosity, and they’ll open up far more than if you demanded their text scripts.
Once your child has shared whatever information they’d like to provide, ask about their habits. Are they using their phone at appropriate times? Is it a distraction from schoolwork? For example, their nightly group text with their besties may or may not be impacting the quality of their homework. If it’s becoming problematic, talk about ways to address it. Put the ball in their court until your next discussion.
4. Photo Sharing
Photos can get anyone, of any age, in trouble. In our photo-obsessed culture, your steaming bowl of ramen can’t get cooled down before you’ve posted it on social media. While posting food pics is pretty benign, things like selfies can be risky. Talk with your kid about posing for and posting photos and offer some guidance about how images can be shared.
While you don’t want to be a killjoy, remember, it’s your duty to provide clear boundaries that protect your child. Help them understand photo privacy, the meaning of popular social media photo trends, and what’s appropriate for their age. Keep up with the trends by reviewing popular hashtags on social media so you can have an informed conversation.
5. Social Media
While messaging and photos can stand alone without social media, they become a powerhouse when they’re combined. As with other modern technology, social media has its benefits. Many find friends, a sense of belonging, and can learn about new cultures while logged in to their favorite platform. Others can find themselves ostracised, bullied, or harassed.
Discuss the popular social media platforms among your kid’s peers and which, if any, may be appropriate for them. Take the time to hear your child out before you interject with your wisdom. You can dig deeper by saying,”I’d love to hear more about that new dance trend.” You may be met with enthusiasm and an opportunity to learn more about your kids’ world. If it’s not time for them to join the latest social site, agree to revisit it at a specific later check-in.
6. Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying takes the age-old practice of bullying and removes all boundaries. Online, there are no school hours to contain the nasty messages and catcalling. Instead, cyber bullies can unleash a digital war from the comfort of their own home. Help your kid stand up to cyberbullies by knowing what to look for and how to react.
Encourage your kid to treat everyone with kindness, even if they are being a bully. Call out the bullying behavior in a confident, calm way. If the bully continues, let your kid know it’s okay to leave the conversation. Ensure your child knows you’re always there to listen without judgement.
Developing a solid weekly phone review with your kid is a great way to build healthy tech habits. But even more, it can help you build a healthy, trust-based relationship with your child. When you’re in sync, you can trust each other to use digital devices safely and within the boundaries you’ve set. And when problems arise, you’ll be the first person they reach out to because they know you’ve got their back.