Cell phones offer us several luxuries. They allow us to check in with loved ones at any time of day. They help us get from one location to the next. They can provide hours of entertainment. But cell phones can also be an intimidating tool to have, especially when it comes to your kids.
It’s natural to want to protect your kids from the safety and privacy risks involved with having a cell phone. Fortunately, it’s possible for a kids phone to be used safely — all you need is the right set of guidelines. Here are seven rules to consider for your child’s first cell phone.
1. Phones Must Be Kept Out of the Bedroom
There’s a time and a place when cell phones are appropriate to use, and bedtime isn’t one of them.
Phones have convenient features like digital alarms, but allowing them in bedrooms can wreak havoc on your kids’ sleep schedules. As they lay down for bed and their phone’s screen illuminates their room, they’ll have to fight temptation to check it. If they give in to this temptation, they could stay up for hours, losing out on precious and much-needed sleep.
Before it’s time for bed, collect all your children’s phones and plug them in to charge in a common room. As you do this, lead by example and keep your phone charging along with your kids’. Doing so will help all family members get better sleep, which can improve everyone’s mood and focus.
2. Time Limits Will Be Set
Between extracurriculars and homework, you don’t want your kids to fall behind because they’re glued to their phones.
It’s important to set time limits and time frames when your kids can be on their phones. Designate specific times after school in which they can mindlessly scroll and relax from their day. Or if your kids have a busier schedule, confine their phone times to weekends only.
Too much screen time can lead to negative health effects such as obesity, poor sleep, and even behavioral issues. That’s why it’s so important to keep screen time in check.
3. Photo Sharing May Be Restricted
As a parent, you can restrict photo sharing on your kids’ phones — and you should. While cameras are a great way to snap a picture of the family dog, this capability can quickly lead to disaster. Kids can and will take pictures of everything, even if it’s not appropriate for others’ viewing.
To prevent kids from sharing photos they shouldn’t, take advantage of parental controls on your child’s device. These apps allow you to manage sharing restrictions and monitor your kids’ phone usage. Another option is to simply review your kids’ texts periodically to ensure they’re not sending or receiving inappropriate pictures.
Before you give your kids a phone, it’s important to discuss consent. Help them understand what they can take photos of and share with others and what they need to avoid.
4. Children Must Answer Calls From Parents Immediately
One of the benefits of your kids having a cell phone is the ability to communicate with them throughout the day. Phones allow you to make sure your kids are safe or just let them know you’re thinking of them.
Your kids, however, might not see the perks of your being able to communicate with them 24/7. Regardless of how your kids feel about this constant accessibility, they must always answer your calls immediately. There may be an emergency situation or just a scheduling change that they need to know about.
As you prepare to give them their first phone, remind them of the importance of responding to authority figures promptly. If they’re playing a game when a call from a parent comes in, they can pause it. If they’re on the phone with a friend, they can call them back. Everything and everyone else can wait when there’s a parent on the other end trying to get a hold of them.
5. Children Must Follow Their School’s Phone Policy
Every school’s policy is different when it comes to cell phones. Some schools strictly prohibit cell phone use during school hours, while others welcome the devices into classrooms.
Having a phone at school can cause a lot of distraction and can interrupt your kids’ classes and studies. There are ways to prevent these disruptions from happening, however, and they start at home.
Before your kids go to school with their phone in hand, sit down and discuss their school’s policies. If you feel that having their phone at school will cause too much temptation, make them leave it at home.
6. All Downloads Must Be Approved
If your kids have a smartphone, it’s likely they’ll have easy access to an app store. There are so many apps on the market, and several of them aren’t what you’d call kid-friendly. And let’s not forget the expensive bills that can be accumulated via in-game purchases.
Before your kids hit the app store, set some ground rules for them. You must approve all downloads to ensure their apps and games are age-appropriate. Many apps will have the minimum age recommended for use listed in the app store.
Research the apps and games they’re downloading. Are they too graphic? Is there inappropriate language throughout the app? Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether your kids can download each app. Before they push the button, make sure the download gets your seal of approval.
7. You Reserve the Right to Use Parental Control Apps
Allowing your kids to have a phone can be nerve-wracking. What if you don’t know what they’re doing? Or how much time they’re spending on them?
There’s reassuring news, and it comes in the form of an app (or apps). A variety of parental control apps will allow you to monitor your kids’ phone usage. You can set time limits, monitor their activity, and even block them from downloading new apps. With these controls at your fingertips, you’ll have much less to worry about.
Giving your kids their first phone doesn’t have to be a fearsome event. By setting time limits, establishing boundaries, and requiring download approval, you can have peace of mind. Before you hand your kids their first phone, remind them of the responsibility that comes with it. After all, having a cell phone is a privilege, not a right.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.