Have your children asked for a smartphone yet? Do you have concerns about online safety or cyberbullying? While my son often asks to borrow my iPhone to play games and watch videos, I was surprised when he asked for a phone for Christmas. He’s only seven. My husband and I felt he was too young to have a phone, but we wondered if we were out of touch. Several of his classmates already have phones, but I had concerns.
Due to my experience serving on a local school board as well as my volunteer work with anti-bullying campaigns, I’m aware of the dangers of unsupervised technology use: sexting, cyber-bullying, identity theft, catfishing, porn addiction and more.
I attended the #KidzVuzHoliday event in November and discovered that the National PTA has a website (#TheSmartTalk) designed to help parents set ground rules for technology use and to determine if their kids are mature enough to have a smartphone or device like an iPad.
#TheSmartTalk website is meant to be a collaboration between parents and children about their devices and technology use. It can help you decide if your child is old enough (or mature enough) for a digital device, and it can also help you come up with ground rules surrounding all your child’s devices. Using the website should take approximately 15 minutes. By the time you are done, you’ll have a customized contract outlining your family’s rules for digital safety and device use.
My son and I sat down to review the website together. We were asked to select which areas mattered to our family: Safety & Privacy, Screen Time, Social Media, Apps & Downloads, Texting & Calling, Reputation & Respect, Online Videos & Cameras.
I’m Type-A, so I selected all of the areas even though my son is way too young to use social media.
I really liked how #TheSmartTalk website guided us through all of the areas in an age-appropriate way. For example, here’s a suggestion from the “Social Media” section: “If a friend shared an embarrassing photo of you online and others saw it, how would you feel? What are some ways to be kind online, so you don’t hurt other people’s feelings?” Here’s another suggestion I really liked: “Do you agree to let Mom know if you ever experience or witness online bullying or something that doesn’t feel right?” And there were prompts for me too: “Mom, do you agree not to overreact if your child needs to discuss something important with you?”
After reviewing all of the suggested rules, we decided that my son wasn’t old enough yet to have his own phone, so we created a printable contract to cover screen time, in-app purchases and appropriate use for when he borrows my phone. The contract was a great conversation-starter about digital safety and device usage, and it even prompted us to set a time to have another conversation to revise the ground rules. I’ll definitely be revisiting #TheSmartTalk site when my son is old enough for us to reconsider his requests for a smartphone.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own. #TheSmartTalk is a collaboration between the National PTA and Lifelock, and the site is free to use. I would enthusiastically recommend it to friends who need help setting technology ground rules or deciding if their child is mature enough for a smart phone.