Cellphones are pretty much as common these days as pants. Maybe even more common in some circles. It’s not odd to see just about everyone of every age with a cell phone. Even grandparents who can’t even figure out how to use a cell phone have a cell phone.
And every child over about age 5 wants one.
Including my child. He’s 11 and we actually got him a smartphone this year. Or rather, my phone was due for an upgrade so he got my old one. We pay for the basic service, he pays the $10 a month extra for the smartphone access with his allowance.
Did you know that most children get their first smartphone between the ages of 8 and 12 and that 92% of teens go online
But you can’t just hand your kid a cell phone and let them run with it. There are some thing you must do to protect them and you.
6 Things You MUST Do Before Giving Your Child a Cell Phone
1. Get a durable case
Even the most responsible kid is still a kid. Getting a case that can stand up to the bumps, bruises and spills likely to happen while the phone is in their pocket, backpack or who knows where is just simply smart. A waterproof case would be ideal, but at least make sure you get one that protects the phone in case it gets dropped. Or rather, when it gets dropped. And dropped again.
2. Set parental controls
This is critical to ensure you child doesn’t have access to things they shouldn’t – either intentionally or accidentally. This involves setting age restrictions on apps, music, books and movies and restricting in-app purchases. Depending upon the age of your child you may want to restrict app downloads altogether so they have to ask for permission before downloading. You can set parental controls, depending upon your device, right from the phone or using a third party app.
3. Turn off location services
This one is a catch-22 in a way. Turning off location services means that if your child posts on social media, their location will not be posted along with it which is critical for their safety. But it also means that you cannot use apps that help “find your phone” if it is lost. If your child doesn’t use apps that use location services you may want to leave it on for that reason. Personally I’m of the mind that if they weren’t responsible enough to keep track of it, maybe its better off not finding its way back to them anyway.
4. Turn off cellular data
Kids have no sense of how much data costs and if you are on a plan with a limited number of data (some people do have unlimited but it’s not very common anymore), kids can run through your data in a matter of days. If it’s shared with the entire family, you may find they helped rack up a costly bill at the end of the month. Limiting them to wi-fi only will help make sure that doesn’t happen.
5. Set a passcode
Make sure to set an access passcode for the phone that you and your child both know. This way if they lose or misplace the phone, it can’t be accessed by a random stranger or even their friends. This is different from the parental controls passcode, which is something only you should know what it is. Setting an access passcode keeps strangers from getting access to any of their personal information that may be on the phone. It also helps keep their friends and classmates from playing jokes or messing with their phone.
6. Discuss ground rules
Having a smartphone is a huge responsibility. You need to stress that it is a privilege that can be taken away. Clearly discuss the things they can and cannot do with their phone and let them know that violating any rules means higher restrictions or worse, loss of the phone.
One way to make sure you get your point across and ensure they truly understand and commit to the ground rules is to sign a physical agreement that you can then post in an obvious location in your house so they are reminded of it constantly.
Lifelock understands how important it is to protect one of the most valuable things you have – your identity so it makes perfect sense that they have teamed up with the National PTA to create a FREE resource that helps parents not only discuss the ground rules of having a cell phone with their child, but help make it super easy as well.
The Smart Talk
The Smart Talk from LifeLock, Inc. and National PTA® is a digital tool to empower you and your child to make smarter choices as digital citizens. The website is an interactive survey that guides you through a series of questions and conversation prompts. It is designed for you and your child to sit down together and work through the questions and discuss expectations.
The Smart Talk covers a wide variety of important topics including safety & privacy, screen time, social media, apps & downloads, texting and calling, reputation & respect and online videos and cameras. It helps you discuss these topics with your child and set the ground rules and expectations. It opens a dialogue as well, and I encourage you to listen to what your child has to say. I found myself offering my son a bit more freedom that I would have liked but with his assurance he will use the phone responsibly. Misuse will mean strict changes to his usage and privileges.
We enjoyed going through this together. It helped him see that I wasn’t just making this stuff up – that it is actually important. It’s on the internet, it must be true (tongue-in-cheek, but in a way a very accurate assessment of the way kids view things)!
He was eager to print and sign the agreement! I really think that because he was involved in the process he took it very seriously.
The Smart Talk from Lifelock helps you set healthy limits on your child’s smartphone use. Because you complete the agreement together, it’s personalized to your family’s needs and expectations.
Cell phones and smartphones are a part of our daily lives and they are pretty much here to stay. As parents, it’s our job to determine the right age for our kids to get their own phone and establish the ground rules for using the device. Lifelock knows how hard it can be to answer some of the difficult questions. Their partnership with the National PTA and the free resources they provide on The Smart Talk site is an amazing tool to help make our lives easy.
And, more importantly, help protect our children.
Visit The Smart Talk site to check out the online safety resources and create your own personalized family contract to encourage healthy digital habits.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.