8 Conversations to Have With Your Kid Before Buying Them a Phone

Growing up as a modern kid usually involves getting a phone sooner or later. By around the end of elementary school and into middle school, most children own their first phones. And to be honest, having children with phones has advantages for moms and dads.

For one, it’s easier to know where' someone is when they can be texted. It’s also great for kids whose games or practices are cancelled. They can simply call their parents for rides. In situations of divorced families, smartphone technology can help a child stay in touch with the non-custodial parent.

Yet cell phones are a responsibility and privilege, not toys to be used without careful consideration. If you’re a mother or father contemplating whether or not to buy your child a cell phone, read on. Below are several phone-related topics to cover with your kids right away.

1. When the phone should and shouldn’t be used

Having parameters on phone usage prior to getting a kid a phone makes sense. After all, your kids should understand when and where' they should and shouldn’t log on. For instance, will they be allowed to sit at the dining room table on the phone while everyone’s enjoying dinner? Or are those sacred moments? Are you comfortable with allowing them to jump onto the Internet before homework is finished? Setting these parameters in place helps avoid arguments later because everyone knows what’s expected.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●   “I want to make certain times and places off-limits for cell phone use. What are your ideas?”

●    “I want us to spend more time as a family without cell phones. When should we put away our phones?”

2. Limitations on social media

Social media has risen as one of the primary ways that kids connect with one another.  Unfortunately, social media has also become a place of cyberbullying, predatory behaviors, and unhealthy levels of peer validation. According to Gabb Wireless, a phone designed specifically for kids, a technology roadmap can help youngsters prepare and utilize a smartphone safely. And that includes limiting or not allowing social media until they’re old enough. You’ll want to enable all controls to keep your children off social platforms. This could even mean buying a phone without social access. That way, your children won’t be tempted to log on behind your back.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●   “Do you plan to use social media soon, or are you already using it? Which sites do you like?”

●    “Do you know the signs of cyberbullying? What would you do if you thought you were being bullied online?”

3. What constitutes appropriate amounts of screen time

According to Kaiser Foundation studies, kids spend about 7.5 hours each day glued to screens including TVs and handheld devices. Not all of the time is spent on a cell phone, of course. But plenty of it is. Most mothers and fathers would agree that most idle, non-school work screen time could be used in better ways. Therefore, you may need to structure your kids’ days to include time when their phones are charging and unavailable. Setting aside special, limited “screen time moments” can be a way to reward your youngster for playing outside, helping around the house, and focusing on offline educational pursuits like reading. Bonus: You’ll reduce the likelihood of him or her getting addicted to cell phone use.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●    “A lot of kids spend too much time watching TV or being on their phones. What do you think is an appropriate amount of time each day to spend on your phone?”

●    “I know it can be hard to put your phone down. That’s why I’m instituting screen-free time every day so you won’t be tempted by your phone.”

4. Why adults may need to be on their phones regularly

Children, preteens, and even teens may wonder why their moms and dads are on the phone so often. When they see you on your phone three or more hours a day, they might assume you’re hanging out on social media or enjoying games. What they might not realize is that you’re using Slack to talk with colleagues or checking your corporate email accounts. You shouldn’t have to justify the reasons you’re on your phone. However, you might want to help your kids understand that a lot your cell phone use is for business purposes.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●    “I’m sorry I had to take that call and answer so many texts while we were sitting here together. I have to do it for business. I wish I could spend more time off the phone.”

●     “I don’t like being on my phone for business, but it’s important for my job. As a student, you shouldn’t need to be on your phone as frequently, which is good.”

5. What to do in case of cyber bullying or similar problems.

Even kids without social media accounts can become targets of bullies and other unseemly characters online. How? Through texting, emails, and online gaming. Parents need to open the door to helping their kids understand what to do in those situations. For instance, does your child know what to do if someone says rude things over text? Or tries to assert peer pressure through emails or a private app? Your kids should feel comfortable coming to you without fear.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●    “I’ve noticed a change in your behavior since getting your phone. Is anything going on that I should know about?”

●    “A lot of kids complain about cyberbullying. Have you ever felt like you were being cyberbullied?”

6. How and when parents will monitor the child’s phone.

Moms and dads frequently want to monitor their kids’ smartphones in some way. This could mean picking up the phone physically and reading texts and emails. On the other hand, monitoring could mean using remote parental controls, such as tracking software. Regardless of what you use, tell your children that since you care about your child, you’re going to be checking up on him or her. What happens if your kid resists monitoring? You can always refuse to buy them a phone until they’re older.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●    “Having a phone is a privilege that can be hard to manage. I’m going to be using parent controls and monitoring to make sure you’re safe.”

●     “Since we’re buying you your first phone, I will be tracking the phone. I may also ask to see your texts, emails, and Internet history at times.”

7. What the discipline is for violating agreed-upon cell phone rules.

Discipline works best when everyone knows what the rules are. Laying out rules before handing a child a cell phone makes the process easier. Your child should know the price of disobeying his or her expected phone actions and decisions. By being upfront, you won’t have to come up with punishment on the spot if your child makes an error in judgment.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●  “We should talk about what happens if you don’t use your phone responsibly.”

●   “I’ve created a list of expectations on your phone use. Can you look over these rules and let me know if you understand them?”

8. Who pays for a replacement phone if an accident happens.

People lose or damage their phones from time to time. And that includes kids who have their own phones. You’ll need to take this into consideration, while also explaining to your child that a broken or misplaced phone may not be repaired or replaced right away. Phones are tools that cost money. Your child may be expected to take on extra chores around the house to help “work off” the price of another phone.

Conversation starter suggestions:

●    “A phone isn’t a toy. It’s a tool that costs money. If yours breaks, here’s what you’ll need to do before you can get it repaired or get a replacement.”

●     “If anything happens to your phone, I want you to let me know as soon as possible. That way, we can decide what to do. Sometimes, phones can be repaired.”

Owning the first phone is a rite of passage for Generation Z members. Still, having a phone doesn’t have to break the bank for your family or make life less safe for your kids. The key to making wise decisions is having serious parent-child conversations before going to the phone store or ordering tech online.

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Egbunem SolomonA Writer with a demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry. Skilled in Product Promotion, Affiliate Marketing, Website Promotion, Blogger, and Blogging.

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