Is Your Child Smartphone Savvy?

How to help your child appreciate and respect smartphones

Smartphones are everywhere. They appear in classrooms, at home, and at the grocery store. We rely on them for everyday activities, like checking our bank account, looking up recipes, and connecting with old friends on Facebook.
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It’s no wonder our children are interested in having their very own smartphone, and giving them access to one is a great way to encourage learning. Many smartphone games are geared for children and are educational, and even simple apps (such as the calculator) can be used to promote critical thinking in day-to-day situations.

But how do you give your child access to this technology in a safe, secure way? You can’t police them all the time – they need to learn to appreciate and respect smartphones on their own.

Making smartphones special

When you give your child their first smartphone, it’s often perceived as a new toy.  This can be problematic, because toys are not always treated with respect (especially if your child has a lot of them). They aren’t locked up regularly, and their purpose is to entertain.

The first step to helping your child become smartphone savvy, then, is to make sure they see their new piece of technology as a special toy. Almost every child has a particular toy, or set of toys, that are treated with more reverence and respect than others. This might be a baseball card collection, or a set of dolls that carry particular importance. Regardless of what these special toys are, they’re treated differently than the others.

When your child is first presented with a smartphone, the phone should enter that special category of toys that are deserving of more care and respect. This will pave the way to an open dialogue about smartphone safety.

Present smartphone safety as the norm

Cyber security is a serious issue, and it’s never too early to begin teaching your child. Historically, phones have been a tool rather than a toy, and were never locked up or regarded as a threat. As a parent, you may have to rewire your thinking about how you treat smartphones so you can lead by example.

When you discuss smartphone safety with your child, present caution as the norm. Show your child that you also take care of your smartphone, limit usage to certain apps, and are only on it for a limited time each day.

Create a routine around smartphone usage

Precious baseball cards are put in a particular case. Certain beloved dolls are only played with on special occasions, or for certain activities. Some activities, like playing outside after school, often come with inherent routines (change into play clothes, stay within the boundaries of the yard, wash your hands when you return). Your child’s smartphone should be no different.

Taking the time to create a routine around smartphone usage – including when and how it’s used – can go a long way towards helping your child respect the technology. For example, smartphone use may only be permitted at a certain time of day, or for certain activities. The smartphone itself may be kept in a special place, and it’s your child’s responsibility to ensure it is returned.
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The routine you create is dependent on you, but any sort of system will help your child see the importance of respecting their smartphone.

Keep an open dialogue about cyber security

As your child gets older, they will get more and more curious about their world – including the digital world. This isn’t a bad thing! Critical thinking depends on inquiry, and allowing your child to explore is absolutely crucial. Digital exploration comes with a few extra challenges, so make sure you keep an open dialogue with your child.

Encourage your child to make use of apps that will foster their critical thinking skills, and ask them about their journey. I’ve talked before about the importance of conversation with your child, and it’s truer with technology than ever. Not only will talking with you help cement the lessons they’re learning, but it will keep you informed and help create a safer environment.

Savvy smartphone use begins with you

You’re the only one who can set the tone for proper smartphone usage with your child, and you’re the only one who can decide what is right for your child. It’s hard to completely disregard smartphones, given the number of opportunities they present, but it is important to approach them carefully.

When you introduce it as a special toy, rather than one to be tossed into the growing pile, you are showing your child how to respect technology. By creating a routine around smartphone usage, and leading by example, you make cyber security the norm. And when you keep an open dialogue, it allows you to play an active role in your child’s smartphone usage and encourage them to think critically about the world around them.

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