New Term, New Phone – Top Five Tips
During a book signing recently, I found myself in conversation with several parents who were in the process of buying a smartphone for their eleven/twelve year olds for the very first time, none of whom were particularly comfortable with it, but most who saw it as a necessity rather than an option.
We’ve been there ourselves, and we know that (at least at the school ours attend), arriving without a smartphone is like being the only family without a TV. Which doesn’t make it right, but is a fact of modern life.
And yes, just because everyone else has one, doesn’t mean you should buy one (or indeed hand one down).
We have one just about to start University (Ben), two at secondary school (Gabe & Jess) and one at primary (Noah), thankfully there seems to be no peer pressure on eight year olds to join in but the other two have their hand me down iPhones and make good use of them.
Given that these things were not around ten years ago, let alone when we were at school, it’s easy to see why many parents are struggling with this dilema – there is no parental instruction book on how to manage these things and there are quite a few people I’ve spoken to who just hope for the best.
So here are my top five tips, gathered from our family experience and my own extensive research for the book if you’re sending your child to school with a smartphone this September.
Use parental controls. Trust me, you’re not being over controlling – if you had seen what I have seen on youngsters gadgets you too would do this. There are extensive benefits that include the ability to block certain apps, restrain unwanted spending and avoid explicit content.
You can also both opt in to tracking, allowing each other to see where you are – brilliant for school pickups
Block adult content. Yes, they are going to see it on their friends phones, but that’s not the same. When I wrote the book, I researched what under 18’s show each other and it’s not Playboy. In fact, of the top ten things that teens search for, I didn’t know what four of them actually were, while my best friend didn’t know five of them.
Try and place them on a lower data plan. Ideally 500mb a month or less will allow lot’s of browsing, surfing and social activity, but will limit video and photo sharing/watching and teach restraint.
Get the phone in a communal space from 8pm (or even 7pm). When I was at school, once the day had ended and my friends headed home for tea it was family time. Now any trouble that takes place on the bus or in the playground extends onto social media which runs 24×7.
In the morning, when the phones switch back on I can see my 13 year old daughters friends have been sending snapchat messages at 1am. No phone, no chance of any bullying or general upset from school invading their evenings.
Follow your children on their social media platforms, and try and get fellow parents to do the same. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” has never been more applicable than right now – we are part of a group of parents who keep a gentle eye on the social feeds of our kids, and let each other know when bad things happen. It’s giving all our children an education on this, and keeping them safe.
We’ve been on a digital diet for over three years, no internet on Sundays, or from 7pm to 7am – and it’s helped our children’s exam results, their mental wellbeing and their fitness. And none of them are the internet addicts they were (neither am I). We learned a lot from it, and if you want to do the same my book Digitox has all the research, all our experience, a lot of funny stories and a step by step plan to help – especially if you’re just starting your kids on a smartphone journey.
Please go and grab a copy at a book store, or from Amazon by clicking here – I promise it will change your life.
PS There is one golden rule. One which should never be broken (adult or child), and that is never, ever take a phone into the bedroom. This is for many, many reasons including sleep patterns, mental health, learning and a bunch of others – I’ll write about that in my next post.