We are a techie family. Let me just explain that one right out of the gate. My husband works in internet security. He know A LOT about phones and computers and iPads. We also are loyal to Apple, often to a fault. Been that way for YEARS. Wishing we had also bought tons of Apple stock back in the day, but we didn’t. I digress.
Here’s my dilemma. My 14 year old has a iPhone. She uses it very responsibly, and tells us her password and gives it to us whenever we ask.
Her 10 year old brother has access to an iPhone on certain occasions, but doesn’t have his own yet. For good reason. Because sometimes when we don’t put away said iPhone and leave it out on the counter to charge overnight, it mysteriously vanishes. Here’s the deal: he has been grabbing that phone whenever he can to play games and watch Minecract Youtube videos. Even during the middle of the night. No bueno.
Smartphones, Tweens and Teens: the Struggle is real, y’all!
Which leaves me wondering: what rules will work in this scenario for a 10 year old kid who clearly is not ready to have full acces to a phone?
A Brave New World:
I started looking around and found that the average age most parents get their kids a phone is SIX. What? Vouchercloud.net, a coupon company, asked approximately 2,290 American parents what kinds of technology they have bought for their children and at what ages. The survey revealed 53 percent of children have cell phones by age seven. As far as other technology for kids, 83 percent have a TV or sound system, 75 percent have a tablet, 71 percent have a handheld gaming console, 65 percent have an eBook reader and 51 percent have an Xbox or Playstation.
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that entertainment “screen time” should be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3-18. Some would say that it is not so much the actual number so much as the CONTENT they are consuming, but the bottom line remains: our kids are becoming paralyzed by technology.
How Much Screen Time Are Kids Getting? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 now spend on average 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day, 4.5 of which are spent watching TV. Over a year, that adds up to 114 full days watching a screen for fun. Notice, that’s just the time they spend in front of a screen for entertainment; it doesn’t include the time they spend on the computer at school for educational purposes or at home for homework.
A similar study in Australia found big differences in how long the kids use screens depending on their age, their gender, and the activity type.
Close to half—46 percent—of all third-grade boys, on average, use screens for more than two hours per day, and that usage increases to 70 percent of boys on average by the time they reach ninth grade. Fewer third-grade girls—43 percent—use screens compared with their male counterparts, but that rate jumps to surpass boys’ average usage in ninth grade, to more than 90 percent of girls.
For general web use—which includes any research conducted for homework—students of both genders follow a similar pattern: Though fewer fifth graders than third graders use the Internet for more than two hours per day, the across-the-board usage rate steadily increases from fifth grade up to ninth. Almost half of ninth-grade girls, for example, are surfing the web (not necessarily using social media) for more than two hours every day.”
So clearly, we parents need some help here, right?
What Tools Are Out There?
Steven Gortmaker, Professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health says,“Other controls are available for different types of television screens and video games. There’s a device called TV Timer Bob — there used to be an earlier version, called TV Allowance — where each child gets a four-digit code and it basically just controls power to the screen. When they want to use it, they enter their code — you set a total amount of time each week and you can set blockout times. The great thing about this device is you don’t have to do any monitoring after that point. When it gets shut off it isn’t you shutting it off, it’s the device shutting it off.” His online guide to Outsmarting the Smart Screens, gives some suggestions of tools parents can use like TV Timer Bob.
What about Smartphones?
Android has an app called Lockwork that’s in beta testing. This app locks the device during the times you don’t want your children to use the device, such as during homework time or bedtime. They can make emergency calls, but they can’t text or browse the Internet.
As for Apple, currently, there is no way to set time limits on an iPhone® or iPad®. You can, however, set up parental controls on these devices. Parental controls will allow you to choose what parts of the phone or tablet your child can access.
- To set up parental controls on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings. Under Settings, go to General. Under General, go to Restrictions. A note of caution: when apps are turned back on, they are reorganized in alphabetical order.
- The Restrictions section of the phone allows you to turn off certain parts of the phone. For example, you can block Safari. However, you cannot block the Internet completely or turn off texting.
My friend and fellow blogger Becca at My Crazy Good Life came up with an excellent SmartPhone Contract for Kids. Being a lawyer, I could go WAY overboard in drafting a document like this. But why? Number one, your kid signs it, and they need to understand what it says. And two, most attorneys agree that with contract language, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I really like the straightforward language of Becca’s and the way it enforces smart choices on social media and just good behavior in general. I know plenty of grown ups who probably should have to sign a similar contract!
If you have other ideas, please share them! I don’t claim to be an expert on this, and would especially like to know what has worked for parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents out there!