Our family is still slowly dipping our toes into the world of having school-aged kids. One of the topics that seems to keep coming up when chatting with my mom friends in the same position is that of the cell phone. And, of course, that one topic leads to a bevy of questions.
When are kids ready for one? When might it be a good idea for communication/safety concerns? What rules and limits should be applied? How do we keep our kids, and those expensive phones safe?
When questions like these arise, I’m so thankful I have friends like our contributor Kristin to go to for guidance. Seriously, if you don’t already have friends with kids older than yours, seek some out. They are invaluable!
Today Kristin is teaming up with our latest sponsor, and widely trusted protector of all your hand-held technology devices, Tech21, to give us the low down on what’s working for her family.
No surprise, she’s got some really helpful wisdom to share…
In the past, technology was always one of those things that scared me. I remember when the first iPhone came out, I wondered why anyone would pay $600 for a mobile phone. Fast-forward eight years and every member of our family has a ‘device.’
It was just so easy to be won over by a digital calendar and the ability to have a personal assistant in Siri.
Kids can be entertained (and sometimes even learning) with games and their favorite shows all while traveling in a car or plane. We can message each other and send reminders. Life has vastly improved through technology.
But, all you have to do is turn on the evening news to hear about the negative side of technology. Plus, it’s not exactly cheap keeping everyone connected.
How do we navigate this two-sided coin?
Let me start by saying there’s not always an easy answer. But, with two teenagers and one tween in our house, I do have some experience. I can tell you the systems and processes we’ve used to keep our kids safe and get the most out of our technology.
How and When We Use Our Technology
You’ve heard of too much of a good thing? This can most definitely be the case for technology. It doesn’t take much for a helpful device to turn it into an addiction.
You’ve all seen those people that can’t make it through a meal without checking their phone. I want to raise children that can manage technology instead of letting it manage them.
Throughout the school year, we don’t allow our children to play games or watch videos on their devices Monday through Friday. We’ve found that it’s too big of a temptation to waste time when they have a lot of school related responsibilities.
It’s the equivalent of adults putting all their cell phones in the middle of the table during a meal. We find that if it’s not there to use, they will be less distracted and work harder on their homework and other practices.
On the weekends, we allow them to use their devices, but we put on a 90 minute time limit per day. We feel it’s not healthy for children to have too many hours of screen time in one day. I know we all need to unwind, but creating balance is a good practice.
We also require our children to use their devices in the living room or kitchen. It’s an easy way to monitor what they are looking at.
This also creates accountability for when they are older. If they were to stumble on something inappropriate, we would want to talk to them about it.
How We Keep Our Investment Safe
I mentioned that the entire family has some kind of device. That sounds so commonplace, I know, but it’s important to keep in mind that all these devices equal well over a thousand dollars in technology. As adults, we know how to take care of our devices, but kids are not born with this knowledge.
One way that you can help kids take responsibility for their devices is to have them pay for some or all of it. Another way is to buy high quality cases that will protect those devices.
Tech21 recently sent over some cases to protect our phones and we’ve been so impressed that now we’re looking into their products for our tablets and Macbook as well.
We all have a friend with a cracked phone– it only takes a second to slip out of an adult’s hand. It seems like an inevitability that it will happen with the kids (probably more than once). With these cases we are so much less worried about that then we used to be.
Tech21 literally has ‘impact protection engineers’ that work on keeping our devices safe.
They’re using impact absorbing materials from across the globe and combining them together with ingenious designs to create slim-fitting cases and screen protectors that absorb and dissipate the force of impact. So if (or, more accurately, when) my child drops that expensive phone, I can breathe easy knowing it will be well protected.
How We Keep Our Kids Safe
When our children first started using iPods and iPads, we only allowed them to use apps and message us or their grandparents. It was a way for them to start learning responsibility slowly.
They were not allowed on the internet because we wanted them to first learn how to interact with games and other apps.
As the children got older, we allowed them to access the internet. We didn’t want them to have the whole big world at their fingertips, so we installed an internet browser with built-in parental controls. Along with being a way for parents to monitor what their young children are looking at, it’s also a safe guard against the kids stumbling onto inappropriate material.
We also allowed the children to have contacts other than their parents and grandparents. We approved friends from school that they could message.
We always make sure the kids know that we trust them, but there are kids out there that might message inappropriate photos or words, so we wanted to know who they would be talking to.
The last step was for them to have a cell phone. For us, we decided to wait until our oldest went to high school. When children have a cell phone, it means they have access to the internet outside of the home. It felt like taking the training wheels off, so we wanted to make sure they were ready for this responsibility.
I have to say, it is so nice to be able to call my oldest child at high school to see where he’s at or if he needs a ride somewhere. We feel like he is making good choices with his cell phone.
I know those good choices aren’t just happenstance. We’ve strategically given our children access to technology at different levels as they’ve gotten older and proven they are responsible enough to handle it.
I hope this glimpse into how our family is taking on the digital age helped- I’d love to hear how all of you are tackling these issues!
*This post is sponsored by Tech21, all opinions are 100% my own.
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