Whether we like it or not, our kids are going to use cell phones.
All we can do is delay the inevitable, but by refusing to provide our kids with a phone and banning its use we are merely antagonizing our children and inflating an already rather touchy issue.
Children as young as 8 are using phones now – and even younger kids are sometimes allowed to use someone else’s phone to play a game or watch a video. In other words, even if you don’t buy them their own personal phone, they are going to use one somewhere at some point.
Instead of working against the phone and everything it provides access to, try to reframe the way you think about it.
Yes, it is said that smartphones are more addictive than alcohol (if you are to believe Netflix’s latest release, The Social Dilemma). But if we position ourselves right and teach our kids how to use them – they might become an ally instead of a foe.
If you’re interested in help with screen time in your home in general, please consider the Screen Freeze Program that has helped many families strike a balance with screen time in their homes.
The first and most obvious way a cell phone can be very useful is in case of emergency.
If you are giving your young child a phone, you can provide them with one that does not have internet access. The Gabb phone makes it is so they can only use to text and make calls (and something rather inexpensive that you won’t mind if it gets lost or stolen). Use code CAMILLE to get $10 off the Z2 device. You can keep the phone unlocked so that anyone can make an emergency call, and clearly label your own number as “mom” and “dad”.
(My niece once got lost in the Zoo when she was five. She wasn’t actually gone for more than 3 minutes, but her parents started to panic after the first 30 seconds. It turned out that she had had my sister’s phone on her at the time, and was smart enough to call her father and tell him she was by the elephants. This is the kind of situation I feel a phone would be useful for.)
If the world keeps moving in the “less physical contact, more social distancing” direction it is sadly currently going in, you can use your child’s phone to stay in touch with others. This kind of connection will of course never be able to replace the human touch, but it is the one benefit of technology we can all wholeheartedly embrace.
You can download any of the host of apps that enable group video and audio calls! You can have a virtual dinner with your relatives, with your kids’ school friends, with friends who live across the world.
Theming these kinds of online get-togethers can be great fun. We did a pre-pre-Halloween masked dinner party with 15 kids (and 30 adults) over Lark during lockdown. It was such a fun way to connect!
Find actual answers
Cell phones for kids of course provide answers to all sorts of questions. However, knowing where to find these answers is the tricky part.
When you allow your child to use the phone to actually surf the web (at whichever age you may decide the time is right), make sure to teach them what a reliable source is, and what it’s not.
You can block certain websites in their browsers (gossip magazines, news outlets you don’t want them to read, etc.), and ensure they don’t accidentally stumble across something they shouldn’t be looking at. Keep adding new websites to the list as you discover them.
Google Scholar is a great way to find reliable answers, but the results might be a bit too advanced for your young children – so focus on adding a list of age-appropriate educational websites to their bookmarks.
Education videos and apps
Ultimately, the best thing you can do with your phone is add all kinds of apps to it. For your kids, you can download a whole host of fun, educational apps that will help them with their skills and knowledge. From math to comprehension and everything in between, there is an app out there.
Here is a short rundown of some of the best learning apps for your child’s cell phone:
You can also subscribe your kids to some great YouTube channels:
Some helpful rules to follow
Here are some extra helpful rules that might help you establish an even better relationship between your child and their phone:
- Create phone-free times: during meals, study time, family time, etc.
- Define phone-free zones: like the dinner table or the bed
- Make a no-phone-at-school policy: since your school will likely already have one, just make sure your child is aware of it and adheres to it
- Have a parent control app on their phone and limit access to certain apps
- Be their friend on social media and monitor their activity
- Teach them all about safety: not to give out their passwords to anyone, whom to share their contact details with, what to do if they are contacted by someone they don’t know, and so on
- Teach them respect: I ultimately believe that children that are raised well don’t become online bullies – but nevertheless talk to your child repeatedly about bullying, gaslighting, trolls and all the other unpleasant aspects of life online.
What’s true for us as adults is also true for our kids – if we use our phones smartly, they can be our best allies in a quest for knowledge and entertainment. If we let them rule our lives, they will become an unhealthy and unpleasant addiction.
Since phones are certainly here to stay, teach your kids how to make the most of them while they are still young, and you won’t have to worry about all the wide world that is available to them through a screen. They will know which corners to visit and which to stay away from.
Camille here! As a parent it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the never-ending bombardment of screens. Cell phones for kids are here, it is up to you how you introduce them and when. Let me HELP YOU find a balance that give you peace and control with the screens in your home. Try the Screen Freeze program and strike a balance that you can feel good about.
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