Note: This is the first blog post in a series that will provide tips for kids using technology, including smartphones. In this post I’ll cover ground rules for using technology while at home. In the next post I’ll cover technology use while away from home (while driving, at school, extracurricular activities and more).
Just about anywhere you turn these days you see someone on their mobile phone – whether it’s walking down the street, sitting at a table in a restaurant, in the doctor’s office, you get the idea. And teens are no exception.
In fact, according to Pew Internet Research, 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds now own mobile phones.
It’s important for parents to have open conversations with their children about how to use their mobile phone safely and responsibly. For instance, statistics show that 65% of teens text late at night when they should be sleeping and 64% of teens with cell phones have texted in class. As parents, we need to understand the technology our kids are using and set ground rules.
Remind your kids that having a mobile phone – which is really a mini-computer – is a privilege and then clearly communicate the THREE important ground rules listed below and the corresponding consequences.
In addition to the ground rules, there are some great new apps, that can help you avoid the power struggles of reminding and nagging your kids about the rules. As a spokesperson for Sprint, I’ve been testing out a new bundle of mobile apps called Sprint Guardian, which I explain in more detail below.
Rule # 1 – Require access to all email and social media accounts and know their passwords. Let them know UP FRONT that you’ll periodically check text messages, emails and social media accounts. It’s not spying on them – you are giving them fair warning that you’ll be checking.
Rule #2 – Implement a technology curfew – phones, computers and gaming devices must be turned off during meals and by 9 PM each night (or earlier if your child is in middle school).
One application within Sprint Guardian I find particularly helpful is called Mobile Controls. It allows parents to lock their kids’ phones (so they can’t talk, text, use apps, etc.) on demand or schedule locks during dinner, school or late at night. Kids lose enough sleep to homework and extracurricular activities – the last thing they should be doing is spending hours texting with friends when they should be sleeping.
Rule #3 – Make bedrooms off-limits for technology. Require that computers and smartphones be used in public spaces and charged in a central area – like the kitchen. In addition to removing the temptation for kids, it gives you an opportunity to randomly check texts and emails.
Be very clear about the consequences. If your child won’t comply with your technology rules, the technology goes away. First offense – they will lose their technology privileges for one week. Second offense – they lose their technology privileges indefinitely. That means they’ll have to use the computers at the public library for homework and go back to the bare bones, most basic mobile phone without texting capability and internet access..
We can’t control our kids but we can control the environment and take away that temptation to use their phone at inappropriate times. Instead of physically taking the phone away, I have found the Sprint Guardian applications really helpful, convenient and affordable. Sprint Mobile Controls, Sprint Drive First and Sprint Family Locator are available as a Family Safety bundle for $9.99 per month for up to five lines on the same account. To learn more, visit www.sprint.com/sprintguardian or to watch a video, click here.
Stay tuned for a future blog post regarding how to keep kids safe while using technology – even when you aren’t there to see how they’re using it!
I’d love to hear comments from you below about how you manage and monitor your kids’ technology usage at home.