In 1998, only 2 or 3 of my friends owned mobile phones in high school. Minutes were limited and features were few. No camera, no data, no texting and no internet! The phone made phone calls. Parents’ reasoning was simple: “I want to know where you are and I want to know you are safe.”
Last week, I heard a parent state the same reasons for giving a smart phone to their middle school aged child. Their concern was for the physical safety of their child, and yet they were unaware of where they were or what they were doing on their mobile phone.
When parents gave phones to their high school students in 1998, they made it possible to call home without having to use a payphone. When parents give their kids (8-10 year olds are getting them) smart phones in 2018, here’s what they’re getting:
Camera (think selfies)
Video game system
Movies & TV Shows
By the way, unless parents have intentional accountability and filtering systems in place, the internet access is unlimited. This means they can ask Google about anything. Anything. As a parent I want to believe my son or daughter would never ask “that” question or search for “those” images. But it could be innocent too, they might simply wander off into pornographic images or websites. It happens and research shows it happens a lot.
With all these features in mind, can you honestly say you know where your student is online? Do you really know what they’re doing? Do you know who they are interacting with? What apps are on their device? When is your kid’s phone “off”? Can you define the term “Fortnite”? If not, you aren’t alone, but you’ll need to step up your game to outsmart the smartphone.
As an aside, I’m not advising you to relocate to eastern Oregon and live in a cave. Smart phones are incredible tools can be extremely practical and helpful. We’re talking about helping our kids navigate technology and avoid some dangerous and unhealthy habits. Remember, their brains aren’t fully formed, so lend them yours.
You’re probably feeling some discomfort or fear at this point. That’s healthy as long as you do something good with that sense of urgency and concern. Here’s 3 ways you can take action and help protect your child and your family.
1.) Learn about the device. If you don’t know what all their device is capable of, research it. If you don’t know exactly what year, make and model it is, talk with your phone rep. They can help fill in the blanks and explain what it does. Remember, they do this for a living and it’s free information. Depending on your mobile plan and accessibility, you might even find out what apps (games, & social media) they’re using. This can help build trust with the next step.
2.) Talk with your kids. Ask about their apps, ask about their friends and online interactions. It may be their phone, but in the meantime, they live under your roof and eat your food. Just as you provide for their physical needs, explain that you care for their mental and emotional health too. Break the ice by investing in some genuine face time. The more you talk openly, the easier it becomes over time.
3.) Set some boundaries. How much time does your kid spend on their device? Should your child be spending time on a device? Have you set rules for when your kid’s device is turned off for the night? (Do you have a rule for yours? Looking at you, parents!) Are there times your family is making eye contact and not zoned out making i-contact staring at screens? Maybe a device free dinner is just what you need!
Parents, you can do this! You love your kids, you want the best for your kids and you want your kids safe. Take your next step and tell us about it here!
Additional Reading & Watching
8 Do’s and Dont’s for High Schoolers on Social Media
Social Media & Loneliness
Technology Addiction & Teens