In my last post, I shared with you the parameters and goals we set for our eldest so that he could get a smartphone at age 13. You can read that post here and if you subscribe you will also get a free printable setting out these goals that you can use in your home. You’re welcome!
With my eldest turning 13 this week and finally getting the smartphone he has wanted for so long I had to ask myself now what? How do I empower him to actually master ownership of this item, instead of this item becoming his owner and master – something we see more and more of nowadays? I am hardly a veteran parent, but the one thing I have learned is that children need structure to thrive. They need to know where the boundaries are to have both a sense of security, an inkling of expectation and to experience true freedom. For them to continue to grow in responsibility and independence they need to understand what is expected of them and get the opportunity to excel within the parameters given. That’s why along with a smartphone, we sat down to come to an agreement on reasonable, healthy usage. It goes something like this:
Wow, you did it! You achieved everything on the list, and now you have a phone! Well done on developing a sense of responsibility, on learning about delayed gratification and growing in learning to prioritise what is truly important. We are proud of you!
We want to make sure that you both enjoy this device and use it wisely, we want to help you learn about using technology responsibly and not becoming enslaved by it. So here are points for us to agree on to manage this privilege of having a phone. If you are not able to comply with the items we’ve agreed to, you will lose your phone privileges.
- This phone belongs to you. Look after it, because if it breaks or gets lost or stolen, we will not be replacing it with another smartphone.
- If we call you, answer the phone. Never ignore a call from your parents
- Continue to be discerning:
- Don’t search for things that you’d be too embarrassed to share with me or things you know are off-limits. If you are curious, ask us. Google is not your parent!
- Put everything you text, email or say through this filter: Would I be ok with my grandparents reading this/ seeing this on the front page of the newspaper? This goes for words and pictures mister!
- Continue to be present:
- Don’t text while walking, it’s annoying for the person behind you in the mall and let’s face it, it’s rude. Nothing is so urgent that you can’t take a seat somewhere and complete a text message or just do it later. You’re not saving lives here!
- Also don’t be the guy who always has his earphones in. This is why people make fun of your generation. This is also how you get yourself run over in the street. There is a time and a place to listen to music and enjoy it and a time and a place to greet people, engage with your environment and be aware.
- Put the phone away at dinner times or when someone is talking to you, especially an older person. Never make those around you feel like they are boring you or devalue and disrespect them by choosing to be on your phone instead of engaging with them. Remember your manners. A phone should be a tool that enhances your relationships, not diminishes them
- When your friends come over yes absolutely show them a few cool things on your phone, but then also play a game of table tennis, talk to each other, go outside, engage with each other more than with a screen.
- Learn to exercise self-discipline:
- Don’t randomly scroll or watch YouTube for hours. I promise you, you will not get to the end of your life and say “I wish I had spent more time on YouTube!” Set aside a specific downtime and limit yourself. Remember that self-discipline is the biggest and most underestimated power we have as humans.
- Learn to manage your time wisely. There is a time to mess around on your phone and there is a time to study/ read/ converse/ eat dinner/ focus on something else.
- You will not be allowed to:
- Have your phone with you after bedtime because: radiation exposure and blue light exposure and also, you should be sleeping!
- Have more than one Facebook/ Instagram/twitter/ YouTube account. One account per platform, where your parents will have full access. That’s the deal.
- Take your phone to school. That’s their rule, not ours, and it’s a great one, because there you are actually physically WITH the people you are so desperate to WhatsApp and play with.
- Don’t obsessively take a million pictures, selfies and videos. Use those functions to enhance the story you are actually living and to punctuate memories you are actually making. Live your experiences, be present with your people and within your journey. There is no need to document every second of that.
Continue to be responsible, as you have shown yourself to be, with the content you consume and the choices you make, with your time and with your resources as they relate to this privilege. Congratulations once again. We look forward to Whatsap’ing you many funny gifs and calling you all the time. Just kidding! Or not!
A note for mom and dad: This might seem like a lot of rules, but when it comes to parenting we can choose either proactive or reactive No’s. We can give the kid the phone or tablet, and then, when he has stayed up all night gaming and fails a test we can say “No, that is not good, now I am going to take the tablet/ smartphone away for a while!”. That is a reactive No. A proactive No is being clear about what the No’s are in order to empower them with trust and responsibility and clarity. Then, when they falter or fail which is totally normal, we don’t have to have a negative reaction, we just have to return to the “drawing board” so to speak, to follow through on an already established, agreed-upon course of action. No strife, no drama. Even owning a smartphone can be an opportunity for our kids to grow in wisdom, independence and responsibility when we empower them through the process.
Does your child have a smartphone? If you struggle to assist them with wisely engaging on social media or understanding the power of the internet, consider getting my book, The Mommy Diaries here, as I discuss those topics specifically.