Family Balance (And Rules) for Kids and Phones

What is the right age for kids and phones? What rules should be in place? These are important decisions for families that provide an opportunity to put healthy habits in place right from the start.

The Decision to Give Your Kid a Phone

Almost a year ago, when my daughter turned 12, she received an old iPhone for her birthday. She wanted to start babysitting, so a phone would be helpful. And most of the kids in her grade had phones already, so that pressure lingered too.

I was a little nervous about the effect the phone would have on her. I’ve seen many kids turn into phone zombies and disconnect from their families. So I did some research to put some family rules in place.

This article by Christine Carter, Tablet and Smartphone Boot Camp for Middle School Parents,was especially helpful. The author explains the importance of making kids aware of what is private and what is not (basically anything they do on-line is not private) and using technology as a force for good.

On Going Discussion About Phone Habits

Overall, my daughter’s phone has not been an issue yet. The biggest challenges are that she forgets it at home and forgets to charge it. So at this stage, my fear of her becoming a phone zombie has not materialized.  I know this will change as she grows, so we’ll keep talking about it as a family. Here are the norms we put in place to help along the way.

List of rules for kids and phones at home

Tips to Find Balance at Home with Kids and Phones:

1. Establish a phone contract

There are a lot of great contracts available on line. (search “phone contract for kids”) I chose this one by Josh Shipp because it’s respectful and encourages kids to make smart choices. It’s also a great conversation starter about how to stay safe on-line.

2. No phones in bedrooms

This encourages us to continue to hang out together in our living room. I can also better monitor on-line activity. Sometimes I let my daughter bring her phone in her room for a brief period for a specific reason, but mostly phones stay in our living room.

3. No phones at mealtime

4. Have a charging space where devices stay at night

It’s widely known that screen time before bed is disruptive to sleep. Before everyone heads off to read before bed, devices land on the charging station in our living room.

5. Teach kids to ask you about anything that happens on-line that seems weird

When my daughter gets chain text messages, spam or things she’s not sure about, she checks with me and I guide her on how to respond or not respond.

6. Use social media and devices as a force for good

Starting social media is another big decision that requires family discussion and an understanding of each social media platform. If your family allows social media, be sure to keep the focus on using devices in ways that make us happier and the world a better place. Social media can have negatives effects on self-esteem as well as mood.

7. Model positive behavior yourself

My phone habits are an important model for my daughters. If I’m texting and the person I’m in the room with asks me a question, I put my phone down, look them in the eye and respond. If I hear my phone bing, I try not to immediately check it. I try not to look at my phone in the car. (I enabled a feature to hold calls and texts while I’m driving) I’m definitely not the perfect role model, but I consistently try to be.

Finding balance in my family with devices and phones will be no doubt be an on-going practice. I hope these tips help if you are navigating this as well. Please share ideas that have worked for your family too!

Helpful Resources:

Common Sense Media – Advice for parents on cell phones, social media, screen time, on-line safety and more – Educates kids, parents and teachers about the responsible use of technology

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Published by Jessica Speer, Author

Author and Advocate for Kids and Families

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