Guest Post by Cassie Brewer
‘Tis the season for blinking lights, soulful tunes, family traditions, and of course: a child’s wish list of toys and gadgets they long to see under the tree come December 25th. As our children plot and plan their detailed lists of wants and desires, many parents are noticing that at the top of our son’s and daughter’s beloved Christmas list is a Smartphone.
Before we place a wrapped Smartphone under the tree this year, we first need to consider a child’s ability to handle responsibility.
It is estimated that three quarters of eight year olds and younger children have access to “smart” devices. And it’s not just our youngest family members dreaming of cell phones and tablets. Roughly 78 percent of all teens own mobile phones- with a majority upgrading to Smartphone technology.
Even though our kids are using handheld technology, they might not possess the necessary skills to safely handle the responsibility of digital citizenship. Before surprising a child with a phone of their own this holiday, answer the following questions:
- Can my son or daughter take care of their belongings?
- Does he or she demonstrate good reasoning or judgment skills?
- Is my child able to grasp the concept of social media permanence?
- Has the family discussed social media etiquette?
Tips For Dialing A Merry Christmas
If you answered “yes” to the majority of the questions posed, your child might be ready for a Smartphone. As parents, we need to be prepared before introducing a world of disappearing messages, sexting, online predators, and cyberbullies into our child’s life.
Unlike the man in the big red suit, many of us haven’t mastered the ability to magically know what our son or daughter is doing at all times. Listed below are six tips to keep a child safely snapping selfies and sending emojis to their friends long after the ornaments are put away:
- Know common dangers trolling the Internet and social media. Sexting is now viewed as normal development and rates of cyberbullying still continue to rise.
- Develop a family technology contract that lists all consequences and expectations for proper Smartphone ownership.
- Help children and teens set their privacy settings to make sure they are protected.
- Have a conversation about social media etiquette, social permanence, online predators, sexting, and cyberbullying.
- Utilize monitoring software to access a child’s cell phone and Internet activity to ensure they are safely using technology.
- Keep devices in common living areas and limit access to bedrooms. Children are less likely to get into trouble if they know mom or dad can walk in any minute. Also, you will be helping a child get a good night’s sleep without the glow of a screen or messages interrupting their shut eye.