Smartphones are addictive, they distract our kids from academics, change the development of their brain structure, and even impair sleep. With so much potential harm, we think it’s wise to give careful consideration to when and how you give your child their first phone. Read on for 4 things to think about before you do.
#1 CAN THIS WAIT?
According to the latest studies, the average age a child receives a phone now is 10.3 years old But even tech experts agree ten is too young for a child to handle the capabilities and distractions of having a smartphone at their disposal 24/7. This week’s Wire Talk guest Arlene Pellicane agrees with most experts and suggests waiting until at least 8th grade. There’s even a national campaign called Wait Til 8th that encourages parents to delay giving children a phone until 8h grade.
#2 HOW CAN WE BEGIN SLOWLY?
Give your child a dumb phone (with only texting and calling capabilities) instead of jumping into a smartphone first. Remember that the decision to give your child a phone doesn’t automatically have to mean a smartphone, and the decision to give them a smartphone doesn’t mean they have carte blanche to use any and every app in the world.
Having access to social media on their phone is a different discussion than having a smartphone and it should be given just as much consideration. When you believe your child is ready for social apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat) begin with one platform at a time and see how things go.
#3 WHAT BOUNDARIES SHOULD WE PUT IN PLACE?
Think through and discuss with your child the following questions:
Where can you use the phone at home? (i.e. only in public spaces)
Where does the phone sleep at night? (i.e. in the kitchen, in the front hallway, not in your bedroom!)
When is it appropriate to be on your phone? (i.e. after homework is completed, on the weekends)
When is it inappropriate to be on your phone? (i.e. when grandma is visiting, at mealtimes, when someone new enters the room, in the car, etc.)
For more great questions to help guide you, head HERE.
#4 AM I PAYING ATTENTION?
Once your child has a smartphone, the real work begins. In the best of cases, because you waited and had a thorough discussion ahead of time, you will see your child using their phone with maturity! But this is the time to pay close attention and monitor how having a smartphone is changing your child’s behavior. Notice the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of their phone usage, but also note the why and how of your child’s phone use.
Why are they using the phone? Are they bored? Are they upset? Are they lonely? If it seems your child is using the phone primarily to escape instead of dealing with real life, this is a red flag.
How is your child using their phone? Are they creating content to share? What kind of content is it? Selfies only? Pictures of friends? What types of content do they consume via their phone? Video games or pornography? Silly cat Instagram accounts or fitness accounts full of photoshopped models? You have the right to know their passwords and log in to their accounts to see EVERYTHING. If they are creating or consuming content that concerns you, you need to know.
Be brave- you are still the parent! If you see warning signs in the way that your child is using their phone, it’s time to step in and either remove the phone altogether or put restrictions on its use. Stand strong even though you are going against the stream! Your child’s health and safety are on the line.
Karen Stubbs, Birds on a Wire – Motherhood Tips & Encouragement Editor
Karen Stubbs is the founder and leader of Birds on a Wire, a ministry designed to equip moms through truth, encouragement, and community. Karen is the wife of Greg Stubbs, they have four children, Kelsey, Emily, Taylor, and Abby and reside in Cumming, Ga. After graduating from Auburn University, she and Greg moved to Virginia Beach where Greg served in the Navy as a fighter pilot. The Navy was where Karen gained her passion for motherhood and grew in her reliance on God to get her through the tough Navy years as a young mom. She is passionate about challenging moms to experience motherhood in the way God intended it for them and their families.
About Birds on a Wire:
Birds on a Wire is a ministry designed to encourage moms and equip them with Godly practical advice so that they will be able to parent with confidence and feel confident in their ability as a mom. As a mother of four, I know firsthand how difficult raising a child is in today’s society. A mom can feel isolated, ill-equipped and unsure of herself and her mothering skills. BOAW pulls alongside moms to give practical advice and assure them that their heavenly Father is with them in this journey. If you have little ones or teenagers or any age in between, join us on this journey of motherhood.