Tech Guidelines: Tips for iParenting in the Digital Age
Michigan Mama Wellness Blogger -Teri Socia, Owner of Rae Soap Co.
Everywhere you look nowadays, adults and kids alike, have their faces down in their phones. You sit in waiting rooms and everyone has their eyes fixated on their screen either playing games or scrolling up reading the latest news. You go to a party and everyone has a phone in hand ready to capture the next funny moment instead of watching and experiencing it in real time. The use of phones and technology is changing every second. It is great to be connected but are we actually making deep connections? Think of a time that someone showed you something funny (to them) on their phone. I cannot recall because its very superficial and isn’t really a conversation with substance. Think of our kids in society and the number of apps they have at their fingertips to use and (also have to manage.) Anyone remember the Pokemon Go craze? People were walking around like zombies! Kind of funny but also a bit creepy.
Some parents struggle with the decision to purchase a phone for their child or teenager. You have to do as you see fit as to whether or not allowing your child to have a phone is the right decision. As with all technology, allowing the use comes with great responsibility for both the parent and the child.
As a mother of three teens (ages 15, 17 and 19), my kids were raised that it is a privilege to have any electronics and it is not a given. Technology in our home started out a little over a decade ago with Leapfrogs, Game Boys, iPod’s, and eventually on to cell phones, iPad’s, and smart watches.
When parents ask things like “I need advice, how do I monitor my child’s phone without them knowing” or “how can I find an app to see who they are texting?” I am going to offer some advice here from experience. I have always told my kids a few things:
- I pay for your phone. You abuse it you lose it. Period.
- Don’t ever, EVER text words or send photos you would not want your grandma or your pastor to see. Keep it clean and classy.
- If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t text it.
- I better not ever see your unmentionables mentioned on Google images. Yup, I went there.
I hope that I have instilled in my kids enough that what you post, text, and share is a clear representation of who you are as a person. Parents, please do not be scared to have a backbone when it comes to monitoring your child’s devices. You do not have to be sneaky with your kids. If you do not trust them, they lose the phone privileges. If you have a concern, take the phone away until the issue has been addressed. Let your kids know you can see everything they text and they can let their friends know you closely monitor the cell usage. It is okay to let them know you are monitoring them. Why? Because you are their parent and its actually okay to parent them. Model good phone and technology behavior for them. On the reciprocal, reward them with more screen time or positive affirmations for being responsible.
Some examples of responsible technology / mobile phone usage:
- Stick to family rules about phone use
- Manage costs by keeping track of data usage
- Keep the phone charged and safe
- Be safe and respectful in calls, texts, and social media posts
You can encourage your child to use mobile phones responsibly by modelling healthy and responsible phone use yourself. For example, if I am continually checking my emails or social media news-feed and completely unattached from everyone around me, it’s likely my kids will see this as acceptable phone use. On the other hand, if you have some balance and a rule about not using phones lets say during family dinner times and you follow the rule yourself, your child is more likely to follow the rules too.
It’s a good idea to talk with your child about having phone-free time regularly. Some families like to have phone-free afternoons or days for the whole family. Others try to take an off the grid internet holiday every now and then, for example, on a camping trip (us Michiganders call this going upnorth!)
It’s a good idea to discuss and agree on mobile phone rules with your child. These might be rules about what she can use her phone for, where and when she can use it, and how much she can spend on usage if there is not an unlimited data plan.
- Your child / teens must answer calls and texts from you and his other parent or siblings.
- Your child can also use his phone to contact friends and listen to music.
- Phones stay out of bedrooms after a time you agree on.
- Your child can use the plan’s monthly allowance, but there won’t be any extra payments if he runs out of minutes or data.
- Devices / phones are put down when you’re talking face to face with each other out of a sign of respect. Again, these are all only examples. You can create a list that works for your family.
Remember, phones and the like, are a privilege not a given. This whole idea that a 10-year-old needs their privacy and “space” is outlandish. It is our job to protect them from themselves, from potentially bad situations, and from internet predators. Be their advocate. If you do not look out for them, then no one else will, potentially leaving them vulnerable to bad situations.
Holding ourselves and our kids accountable for their actions on and offline with the use of technology will only make them more caring and responsible people. Your kids may not like you for it now, but they will surely love you for caring about them later on in life. Now that you have set the expectation, it will only be a matter of time before your kids and teens get used to the rules and the responsibility that comes with using technology. Setting healthy perimeters for your kids now can help create a more harmonious family life and help them balance the use of technology when they are grown and have families of their own. It is important for kids to not only practice safety and responsibility with technology, but also to see the value in making face to face connections and having live, respectful conversations while having the ability to “unplug” from time to time.