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Smartphone and Social Media Safety Smartphone and Social Media Safety

Deciding when your child should get a smartphone is a big step and one that should be well thought out as a family. Today, phones are used for more than just phone calls and text messages, they are also a gateway into the world around us thanks to social media, applications, and the Internet. There is no one age that is perfect for a child to get their first phone because it all depends on the child and his or her maturity level.

If you are currently considering getting your child a smartphone, but you have concerns, here are a few ideas to consider:

Family Values – Think about what’s important to you as a family, not just what’s important for your child, but what’s important for you as well.

Talk About Technology – Have a conversation with your child about how they use technology in the classroom, how their friends use it, and how you use it in your everyday life. Find out what your child enjoys about technology and why they enjoy it so you can talk about ways to use their time effectively. No matter what, you will want to make sure that you regulate their relationship with devices so they are not constantly using their phones.

Develop Rules – Consider creating a family contract for online safety so you and your child both agree to certain rules about when to use technology and how the device should be monitored. That way there are no disagreements later on about any devices and how they’re used. There are plenty of jumping off points for creating your own contract that you will be comfortable with.

Model Ideal Behavior – Make sure you are using your phone a healthy amount yourself that way your child knows what is and isn’t appropriate. If you are constantly using your phone, but preaching time limits for your child, it might be harder to get some lessons to stick.

Getting a smartphone is only half the battle though. Once your child has a phone, how can you be sure they are using it appropriately? Most kids and teens are using some form of social media and are browsing the Internet. It’s difficult to keep kids completely safe online even with parental controls so it’s important to teach kids about making good decisions online. Here are some general tips:

Be familiar with the Internet – learn everything you can about the types of websites and apps your children spend their time on and understand the risks that are associated with those pages.

Create Guidelines – Don’t wait for something bad to happen to make the rules, set them in place early on so kids know what’s expected of them.

Keep Personal Information Private – It’s a difficult task in today’s world since so much is public, but it’s always a good idea to remind kids to keep private information private. Posting things like phone numbers, addresses, and credit cards can bring harm to your family if the wrong people gain access to that information.

Encourage Your Kids to Come To You – It’s important that your kids feel safe coming to you if there’s a problem or if they get in trouble, not just offline, but online too. No matter what, kids and teens will probably come across bad websites or even bad people, so it’s important that they feel comfortable talking to a parent or adult about what they encountered.