Our favorite mommy blogger, Brooke Romney, stopped by our studio today to talk about parenting and smart phones. Check out what she had to say:
We started this “kid with a cellphone” journey a few years ago, and I have since found myself pining for pioneer times when families read books by candlelight and bonded over farm chores. Alas, it is 2018, and technology isn’t going anywhere, so we are cautiously embracing it and trying to figure out how to do it right.
We have learned a few things through our first experience and after a lot of trial and error, so I thought I would share what we did right and wrong. If I could do it over again, these guidelines would be put in place well before the first cellphone was ever purchased.
If you are considering getting your child a smartphone, hold on and give it a little more time. I know, I know, everyone has one except your child (which most likely isn’t true), but there really is no rush. They will have a lifetime to be plugged in, and once you start, it is hard to go back. Make sure there is a real need and a decent amount of maturity before you rush into purchasing a smart anything.
- Start slowly:
Begin with a flip phone. This is not the most socially acceptable option, but remember it is your money, your phone contract and your home. A flip phone is a great way to test the waters. You will have to spend more money than you want to on it, but I promise it is worth it. The one we purchased has a slide out keyboard and receives group messages, which is a big bonus in this text-heavy world. Starting with this type of phone helps kids understand what a phone is actually for: communication. It gives you a chance to teach phone etiquette — when a phone should be used and when it should be put away; how to answer and make a phone call; how and when to text; and the expectation that you always get back to your parents right away. As a bonus, when was the last time you heard a disturbing story of a teen with a flip phone?
- Get a filter:
Do not give your child a smartphone without purchasing a filter. Our favorite is OurPact, an app that allows me to monitor the amount of time my child spends on his phone, restrict certain apps, set bedtimes and other schedules, filter adult content on browsers and block all usage from my cellphone. Seven dollars per month monitors up to 20 devices and is money well spent. This has been the biggest game-changer for us. If that price is too steep, they have other less expensive options that are better than nothing. If you don’t go this direction and your child has an iPhone, you can do great things under the restrictions tab, so set that up immediately with a good passcode. Verizon also offers a family plan for $5 per month that offers some important parental controls, as do other providers. Be especially vigilant when it comes to internet browsers and YouTube. In my opinion, if you can’t afford a filter that helps with content and time usage, you shouldn’t purchase a smartphone for your teen. If you think your kid is the exception, your head is in the sand. Even the very best tweens and teens need limits.
- Block downloads:
Set the phone up so you have to approve each app that is downloaded, even the free ones. This allows you a chance to look into what is going on the phone and to monitor the apps that are being used. This also opens up conversation between you and your teen and gives you a chance to research apps before you OK them for your child. Do your homework before approving.
- Set a phone schedule:
Phones, tablets and iPads should not be available for access 24/7. I believe in boredom, in learning without distractions, in family time and in face-to-face interaction. For all these things to happen, electronics have to be put away at times (adults too!). This was a hard one to backtrack on, but it is possible. We like to turn all the gaming and social media apps off during school, put phones away during homework time and dinner, set overall time limits and put phones to bed at night where they can’t disturb sleep. This plan also allows us to check the phone when we feel like we need to. We will glance at texts and direct messages and have a discussion the next day if there is anything we are worried about.