by: Lesley Iwinski
Cell phones are here to stay, but when is a good time to give a child a phone of her own? A cell phone provides safety for your child and is a way to keep the two of you connected. But there is a dark side: access to the Internet and social media, constant distraction, decreased concentration, disturbed sleep and addiction.
Be sure you have a clear plan before your child gets her first device, because trying to get the horse back in the barn is exponentially more difficult than having a clear set of rules and an agreement from the beginning.
When should a child get her own phone?
Middle school is reasonable. Flip phones and their counterparts are best for children.
Resist the urge to succumb to the herd mentality that “all the other parents let their kids have smart phones.”
Think for yourself. If you feel strongly that your child should have a smart phone, “Smarter” Phones are available that allow parents to restrict children’s access to apps and Internet sites.
Explore options such as Kurio. Every parent must invest the time to set parental controls. Visit KidsFirstKY’s website and OperationParent’s websites for valuable how-to information.
Consider these factors before giving your child a phone:
– Have a written agreement about use and boundaries (times and locations) before your child gets a phone. If you need help, sample contracts for cell phone use are available online
– Your child must answer any texts and calls from you within 5 minutes unless it is unsafe (driving, when they are older).
– Keep control. At night, children should turn in their phones to the parents’ room where the chargers are kept.
Children can’t retrieve the phone until completely ready for school or another agreed-upon time.
– Safety over privacy. You have the right as the owner of the phone to check all texts and any other sites, apps, etc. that your child has access to. This is not a privacy issue, it is a safety issue.
– Write “review cell phone usage” on your calendar and do so regularly.
It’s also wise to have frequent conversations about sexting, bullying and any other popular misuses of digital media.
Any of these are grounds for losing the privilege of having a smart phone for a period of time.
Keep communication open and regularly encourage your child to come to you if she is concerned about anything related to her phone.
Dr. Lesley Iwinski is the mother of three grown children, a family physician and owner of Growing Peaceful Families, LLC.
She offers classes, workshops and seminars.
Info: (859) 333-3053 or www.enrichingfamilies.org.