We gave our son his first phone—a smartphone—when he turned 12.
At the time, as parents, we wrote up some rules in the form of a letter, based on something we’d found on the Internet, and gave them to him. “These are the rules,” we said. “Follow them or else.”
The problem with this approach is that he had no skin in the game. It was just another set of rules, among many, for him to understand and try to obey. Him versus us.
He’s 14 now—almost 15. And looking back, especially given how important the phone has become to him, I can see that our approach wasn’t necessarily the best. We were entering the unknown and didn’t know from Snapchat, Ask.fm or even Instagram. We were naïve. We should’ve engaged him in the process of establishing the rules.
All kids are different. Our son is technology focused. He plays basketball, watches sports on TV and is a social animal, but his first love is tech. Your kid may be different. But even if technology isn’t the be-all, end-all for him or her, it’s going to be important. Hugely important. I can’t stress this enough.
The smartphone is how kids stay in touch with each other. They text. They share photos. They look at their phones constantly. Occasionally, they actually use smartphones as—wait for it—phones! The next time you’re around a group of teenagers, watch and learn.
If you’re at the point where you’re considering a smartphone for your child, as school kicks off or as we approach the holidays in a couple of months, I’d highly recommend you also consider setting up some rules as part of the process.
At LifeLock, we’ve worked with the National PTA, to launch The Smart Talk. It’s an interactive tool that lets you set personalized, technology ground rules withyour kid. You sit down together and respond to questions. Simple enough, right? After about 15 minutes, you’ll have a finished agreement that you can print, sign and, then, hang on the fridge as a reminder of how it’s all going to work.
The Smart Talk covers everything from what makes a good password to how much money can be spent on smartphone apps—buying the phone is just the first expense—to when the phone will be turned off at night. Our information for the site comes from the experts at Common Sense Media. Check it out here. And share it with your friends who may soon find themselves in the same position. Also, read what my colleague Mike Hargis had to say yesterday about his experience with his son and The Smart Talk.
I’m no parenting expert. I struggle with making the right decisions every day. (Teenagers—I can’t even.) But I do know that if my son and I had sat down a couple of years ago to reach agreement on how, when and where he was going to use his smartphone, life would’ve been a lot easier along the way. And this morning, for that matter.
If it’s time for your kid to have a smartphone, have The Smart Talk.
Posted by Cory Warren
|Chowchilla News Day
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