As a parent, you have the duty to raise your child the best you can. Part of this is controlling what your kid has access to especially on their phone. I have said so many times that giving a child a cell phone without oversight is like dropping them off on South Street in Philly and saying “let me know if you need any help”. This is reckless. So let’s pause and think about how to maintain control over your child’s phone.
Remember you are the parent. Even if they are earning their phone you are still their authority even over things they have earned. Make sure you are in control. Many wireless providers will allow you to set up internet filtering, which is a great start, and even worth an extra expense each month, but raising your child well is going to take a more hands-on approach.
Set expectation before your child gets's a phone: I have written on this before so I won’t rehash it now.
- Setup their device for them. I know this takes a lot of the fun out of un-packaging a new “toy” and going through all the new prompts but it will allow you to create their user accounts and passwords for them. They can still have a different pin which they know for unlocking their phone. But the password used for installing apps or updates is something most teens don’t need. By holding on to it yourself you remove the fear of them downloading one of those tricky apps that look innocent but are not. Just make sure you are going to remember (or write down) what the password is.
- Be picky about which apps they get. Spend time getting to know what social media platforms they want to be on. Maybe download the platform and use it on your phone for a few weeks before you allow them to use it themselves. This will show you areas to be watchful. Once you are ready to let them use the platform, set up an account with them (again holding the password yourself). Now they can never lock you out. The one danger is that they can at any point sign you out and create another account (but if that happens you will notice when you are checking in on them). As they start using social media consider making it something you do together. Sign in for them, post together, scroll together, and sign out. (Click here for a great article reminding dads to be where your kids are)
- Check in on them. This may sound nosy but you wouldn’t let your child have a party at your house when you aren’t home. Why would you let them wonder the internet without oversite? Once in a while ask for their phone to make sure they are staying within the expectations. Check their Chrome and Safari history (if you don’t know what this means or how to do it, let me Google that for you).
- Watch out for false gods. Games have a way of consuming our lives. Watch out for apps that your child is spending too much time in. They may have become an idol in your home. If so delete the app (remember they can’t install it again without the password only you have). Make sure you have clear conversations with your child before deleting it, while deleting it, and after deleting it. Just a few weeks ago Stef and I deleted YouTube kids off an old iPad that our daughters use because they were putting the app above relationship with people and fighting us when we said their time was up.
- Keep relationships over Technology. In my house, the phrase “relationships over technology” comes up a lot. It’s so easy to get sucked into a text message or social feeds and forget the people right in front of us. As a couple, Stef and I work to hold each other accountable so we can lead our children well. There are times we need to be on our phones, but we work to communicate to our kids that it’s temporary and an estimated amount of time until they have our full attention. We expect the same from them. When someone arrives if they are on an iPad or watching TV and don’t pause to greet the person, they immediately lose that privilege. Create high standards in your house to ensure you love each other more than technology.
I’m sure there are many more things you can do but by far the most important is being intentional. The fact you took the time to read this before giving your child a phone shows you are on the right track.
If you come across any great tools or resources to help other parents please comment below.