It’s Christmas time and the number one request will be “can I get a smart phone”? At very early ages, kids desire to have their own device and they will tell their parents “everyone has one” and they will say it like they are dying inside. For many parents this is a very persistent and compelling request. And it is very important that you have a very clear idea in your own mind of when and how you want to see your child learn how to become a responsible user of her own smart phone. If your no is simply “resistance” your child will respond as if you are trying to control him. Your aim, is to say “No” with the authority that is genuine and reflects your confidence to provide direction on how and when your child will gain access to their own smart phone. For some families, it may be upon entering middle school, others high school and still other families may choose not to budget for smart phone services.
The “no” can be the beginning of a season of mentoring, instruction and building trust. Make sure your decision is consistent with family policy so that your child does not feel like the “no” is a punishment or a disconnect from your interest in their personal desires. In this regard, setting and managing expectations for the use of devices and apps is one of the most strategic and challenging things a parent can do. Below are some considerations for parents who are feeling the pressure of a child who desires to have their own mobile phone.
Tips to set expectations for the right time to introduce a mobile phone
- Set expectations. If you have not already done so, give your child a general idea of when and how you see them developing the maturity and good judgement to have independent use of a mobile device, and then eventually use of their own mobile phone for personal communications. Perhaps you have financial criteria, such as your child having an after school job to help pay for the service when they are the right age. There may be some other considerations including how they are handling the use of existing devices in the home. If your child is not showing capacity to regulate their own use and share use of devices with siblings, there may be more work on your child’s part to become a more responsible user before you issue a phone. And in addition it may be that there is no real need for your child to have their own mobile phone. In my mind, it helps to tie issuing a mobile phone with purpose-driven motives or needs. And most importantly, are you the parent ready? You will need to be engaged in your child’s use of the mobile phone and stay current with the things they are learning in order to help maintain healthy boundaries and impart your wisdom.
- Prepare your child to be a smart user of the mobile phone. It is important to establish the criteria for maturity that you want to see demonstrated in the home with respect to good citizenship and trustworthiness (i.e., taking care of their responsibilities at home and with school, for example; and or how they treat their siblings). Link the personal use of a mobile device to the qualities of the character of a good citizen, such as demonstrated reliability (when you say you will do something, you do it), courtesy, honesty, kindness, etc. (A good reference are the qualities of a trustworthy person described in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8).
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- Communicate and enforce consequences that empower your child. When you decide to purchase your child a mobile phone, have clear house rules for the use of the device, including when you expect to have the device turned in at the end of the day, and the kinds of content on the device that will warrant loss of user privileges, and an explicit understanding they will not be granted privacy. You must inspect what you expect: tell your child that you expect that they will be dealing with cyber connectivity issues that require parental guidance (gossip, bullying and inappropriate content and contacts), and that you will respect, but not grant them privacy. When you explain that your aim is to help your child to learn how not to give up power to the bully, the drug or the device, it becomes a very empowering conversation and experience.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.