When you give your children smartphones to help them stay connected with the rest of the family and their friends, you're putting a lot of power in their hands. And as the old adage goes, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
1. Responsible usage starts in the home. The best way to monitor and limit usage is to start your child out with a pre-paid phone. Parents can top the phone up at regular intervals, preventing kids from going over their monthly data allowance and running up a huge bill. This teaches kids responsibility and impulse control.
2. Advocate talking over texting. You can also help your child develop appropriate mobile use habits by not allowing it during certain times of day, such as during family meals. You should also point out that it's inappropriate to be staring at a screen when family, friends or teachers are engaging them in conversation.
3. Silence speaks volumes. Also let them know that not everyone needs to hear their latest ringtone – especially if they're in a place that requires silence, such as a movie theatre or library. Show them that they can place their phone on silent, and to step out of the venue if the call is important.
4. Think twice about posting. When it comes to communicating with people via text or social media, have children ask themselves if they'd say the same thing in person, or if they’d want a photo of themselves posted online without permission.
5. Treat technology with respect. A smartphone is a handy tool to have for your child's learning and to keep in touch during emergencies, but you should teach them it's not a toy and it's not to be taken lightly. That means the phone should be properly cared for, kept away from food and drinks that could damage it, and carefully handled to avoid being dropped or end up with cracked screens.
Starting your child off with responsible cellphone usage habits early can help them have a healthy relationship with technology as they grow older. After all, your child ignoring you due to an incoming text could mean they miss a key instruction during a meeting from a boss later.