7 Things to Do When Your Kid Gets Her First Cell Phone
For parents prone to helicoptering (cough), the idea of being able to track your child’s every move sounds pretty appealing. (“Text me when you get to Sarah’s, honey!”) But enter social media, and the link between smartphones and safety doesn’t always, well, click. So where do you draw the (digital) line? Scroll down, of course.
Turn YouTube restrictions on
It’s fairly simple to block adult content from popping up via YouTube searches. Just be sure to turn on restricted mode on both your kid's app and via his phone’s web browser.
Block their access to apps
Did you know apps have age ratings, just like movies are rated R? Well, where there are ratings, there can be restrictions. Before you hand over the iPhone, spend some time in Settings, disallowing access to social media apps you feel they’re too young to download. You can also set up notifications, so that if your kid tries to buy apps in the future, all purchases go through you for approval.
Program in emergency info
Fill your kid's digital phone book/contacts with your number, her dad’s, the family doctor, poison control, the police department and every trusted adult within a 20-mile radius. And don’t forget grandma (if you build it in, she may call)! The Health App functions like a digital ID card; it's the perfect place to store info on her medication allergies, medical conditions, blood type and more, in case of emergency.
Talk about the downside of social media
For adolescents, without exception, writes author Jean M. Twenge in The Atlantic: “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend ten or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media…The opposite is true of in-person interactions.” Talk to your kids about why virtual friendships make them feel vulnerable. “For all their power to link kids day and night, social media also exacerbate the age-old teen concern about being left out.” The antidote? Actively encourage your kids to play sports, do homework and meet up with friends IRL.
Come up with a family code
Since your child is bound to go out and socialize at least some of the time, borrow this ingenious tip: If he's ever out somewhere and uncomfortable, he can text you an agreed-upon code word or symbol like “X.” That’s your cue to call his phone and insist he come home immediately or simply go and pick him up. (If only you could employ this trick for getting out of endless meetings.)
Set parameters early
Maybe you have a policy that all devices are docked in the kitchen before bedtime. Maybe you make it clear that you’ll periodically look at their search history and texts. Whatever your rules, tell your child about them before they get the phone, so everybody’s on the same page when you casually mention that baseball camp he was Googling.
Put down your phone
Monkey see, monkey do. Create “sacred spaces” or phone-free zones (the dinner table, the bedrooms, the car) where family connections can flourish. Your family owns phones but the phones don’t have to own you.