8 Things To Consider Before Giving Your Child A Mobile Device For Christmas
Whether you have decided to get your child a device for safety, fun, or to simply end the persistent requests, there is no doubt that you are going to be a little bit nervous as you watch your child unwrap that present.
After all, you are opening a whole new world for them.
This isn’t a bad thing, but only if you remain involved in your child’s habits, consistently engage in conversations about online activities, and set clear rules and agreements in advance.
Whether it’s an iPod touch, a tablet, or a full-blown data-packaged iPhone, here is a list of 8 essential things every parent should keep in mind before, during and after handing a mobile device over this holiday season…
1) Discuss Privilege and Trust
Once the dust settles after your child receives their gift, have a ‘high-level’ chat about the privilege of device ownership. Without being too patronizing, explain that the responsibility of owning a personal device is very big, and that you would not hand one over if you didn’t trust and respect them so much.
Ask some questions about whether their friends own devices, what they are most excited to use it for, and what skills or interests they hope to learn more about. Make this conversation casual, and open-ended.
2) Set Clear Agreements
Setting clear rules with your child about when and how their device will be used is essential… Emphasis on the word WITH!
Depending on your child’s age, you may agree that the phone is to be used only for certain purposes (contacting you, doing homework, and the occasional game-time with pre-approved apps, for example). No doubt, the older your child is, the trickier it will be to set these clear rules. It is important, nonetheless, to talk about limits and establish agreements, but also to keep in mind (especially for older kids) that you do need to give a bit of free rein to show your trust. It is important that these agreements are realistic from both ends, and so if need be, bring in a ‘mediator’. Once your agreements have been established, be sure to stick to them.
3) Have Your Child Show You the Ropes
Whether you own a smartphone or tablet of your own, you definitely have something to learn from your child about these devices. Kids and parents use their devices for different things, so while you may feel comfortable sending texts and emails, transferring images with Airplay, or using a handful of apps, your child is likely going to be on a different wavelength than you.
Show your interest, and ask your child to show you some of the apps they will be using, then go through setting up the device together. Use this as quality time to share a really exciting experience with your child, and hopefully learn something new!
4) Screen Applications for Quality
Not all screen applications are created equal. Make sure you do some research before you allow your child to download a new app. You probably don’t want him or her playing on a mindless game that isn’t engaging, or chatting with friends on a social app with no privacy settings. There are some really good apps out there that can help with homework, SAT studying, and even fun games that require critical thinking to engage your child.
There are tons of mis-categorized educational apps and unsafe social media apps on the market, and it is your job as a parent to make sure that all the apps on their device pass your approval. Explain to your child that you trust them to let you know when they install a new app, and then take the time to do some research. If you are interested in how to determine whether an educational app is quality, check out this great article.
Common Sense Media is also a great resource for parents looking to screen different apps for quality.
5) Set Restrictions in the Device Settings
Consider downloading all the apps the device comes with and then locking the app download in restrictions beforehand. This can make it much easier from the start and set the tone for how the phone will be used. You can also set content restrictions and so on within iOS device settings.
6) Sign a Family Contract
The is a great way to support your child’s independence, while also entrusting him or her to use the device responsibly. OurPact has created a family contract, which you can download for free and print out. We also encourage parents to consider taking this contract as a template to discuss with children. Depending on your child’s age, consider handing the contract over for them to digest, and make tweaks to if they so desire.
With agreements made before you even activate the new smartphone or tablet, your child will understand the privilege of having such a device and be more likely to stay within the limits of the contract. Tape this contract somewhere easy to see (like on the fridge door) as a constant reminder of the agreement you made together.
7) Buy a Protective Case and Warranty
I cannot emphasize this enough. Having three kids of my own, we have spent several hundred dollars on repairs and replacement of phones. Accidentally dropping the phone can easily crack the glass and leaning over when it is in a pocket can have it land in a puddle or worse! Cases are relatively inexpensive for the protection it gives and warranties can be bought either through your carrier or a third party, such as Marshall’s (a cheap alternative) or Best Buy.
8) Download OurPact
Excuse us while we toot our own horn, but this is a very important point. With our parental guidance app, OurPact, parents are able to download a free app on their phone, and then install a simple profile on the child’s device. Then, you can remotely set up automated schedules that Internet and Apps are unavailable, or block access manually for a specified period of time.
As soon as you hand over that device, download OurPact on your own iPhone or iPad. Then, install the profile on your child’s device. Not only will this allow you to be engaged and involved over when and how your child uses their device, but you can also enjoy the (wonderful) peace of mind that your child isn’t playing Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja past bedtime when they should be snoozing.
9) Set Personal Rules
Parents are often unaware how much time their children are actually spending on their mobile devices, in addition to how much time they are using them personally. Some social media sites and gaming apps can be so absorbing that kids lose track of time, which limits the time they have left for more important activities like homework, outdoor play or sleeping. Try to avoid using their device as a ‘babysitter’.
Now that your child has their own device, your personal habits are all the more important. Of course, it is easy to say that work emails are more important than a gaming app, but kids have a hard time making that differentiation. The truth is, kids are more likely to pick up the things we DO than the things we SAY, so make sure that your actions line up with your words. When you are with your kid, always be sure to make them a priority over your phone. Never text and drive. Don’t send emails at the dinner table. Make eye contact (not device contact) when you talk. You get the picture.
10) Discuss Values
Having a conversation about expectations and responsibility that incorporates your family values can have a positive effect on how their device is used. Discuss online safety, social media etiquette, digital footprints, and how to use the Internet for good. Communicate a sense of trust in their ability to make good decisions, but be sure to lay the foundation.
The digital age is already your child’s future, so giving a smartphone or tablet as a Christmas gift this year can make a lot of sense. With a little forethought and planning, this can be something you feel good about giving and maybe be one of the most exciting gifts received!
Happy Holidays from the OurPact family!
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