Good Digital Parenting
Sept. 2, 2015

Is my Child Ready for a Smartphone?

Co-Founder, PocketGuardian

How do you know if your child is ready to take on such a responsibility?  This is a question parents ask themselves every day.  As a parent myself I can think of examples where it would be beneficial such as emergencies, after school activities and academics.  And while I acknowledge the convenience it would provide I must also acknowledge the risks in handing them such a powerful technological device.   Whatever your situation may be, here are a few tips to help you with your decision.  

Educate Your Child, And Yourself

Smartphones don't come with an etiquette manual designed for kids.  Fortunately, there are resources available that describe appropriate ways to use technology, communicate on social media, and choose what to share online. CyberWise has put together a great list of resources for kids aimed to enhance media literacy through digital citizenship.  These tools will help educate your child to use technology confidently and wisely.

There are also resources for adults new to social media, social apps, and digital privacy.  Good Digital Parenting provides an excellent social media guide, app tip sheet  and p among its many resources.  Staying informed of the latest social media sites as well as trending apps will help you determine which sites and apps are acceptable for your child to use.

Set Expectations for Proper Use

Now that your child has a better understanding of their digital responsibility you can set expectations on how and when your child can use their device.  LifeLock, in partnership with the National PTA and Common Sense Media, has designed an online tool to help parents empower their children to become smart digital citizens in an increasingly connected world.  Called The Smart Talk, this tool creates an agreement between parent and child containing ground rules for usage such as hours per day, acceptable actives, and device-free zones.

To Monitor or Not To Monitor

The market for parental monitoring apps contains plenty of options to choose from with varying levels of control, ranging from disabling standard Smartphone features to borderline spyware.  In choosing a monitoring app think about how much of your child’s privacy you are willing to sacrifice.  Is it necessary to see each and every phone call, text message and image sent to and received by your child?  If privacy is important to you, apps such as PocketGuardian will send notification when inappropriate content is detected on a child’s device while maintaining the child’s privacy.  Instead of seeing the flagged content, parents receive an alert type and timestamp along with resources to help them discuss the situation with their child.

Whether you choose to monitor or not, on-going communication with your child is critical.  Continue to educate your child in discussions to improve their digital citizenship.  Stay up to date with the latest mobile apps, social media sites, and privacy laws.  Revisit and re-access any agreements made in the past to determine what did and did not work between yourself and your child.  But most importantly, maintain the trust between you and your child.  The more comfortable they feel discussing these topics with you the more receptive they will be to your advice.  

Disclosure:  I’m a co-founder of PocketGuardian.

Image courtesy of Flickr .