Tis the season to celebrate Jesus’ birth and give our kids new iPhones. Right?! Every parent I know right now is debating a few things with their kids depending on their age. Are they old enough for a phone yet? Should I upgrade their phone because they are asking? It’s on all of our minds, and as a momma to three teenage boys and one pre-teen girl I have a few things that I think will be helpful for you as you think through this.
First things first, you get to decide when your kids get a phone. I clearly know that all of their friends have phones, and that all of the other parents are getting their kids phones for Christmas, but let me remind you of something in case you have forgotten. You are the only one in charge of your kid. You don’t parent your kid based on what other parents are doing, but instead you parent your kid based on your values, your ideas, your convictions. Nothing else. Phones are not bad, but I want you to remember that God has given you a great mind to determine when your particular child is ready for a phone. Society doesn’t get to tell you when they are ready, and neither do the other kids in their grade. You are in charge of the phone timeline in your home!
When you decide to get your child a phone, you need to remember that you have basically handed them a computer that they can access whenever and wherever. Everything accessible on the internet is now available in the palm of their hand. This seems super scary, and it should be, but it’s also manageable for us as parents. When I think about this I sometimes want to go through my house and throw every single phone that we own in the garbage and tell my kids to just deal with it. But then I remember that technology is not going anywhere and as parents, I want to be the one to teach them to manage and deal with the temptations that will come along with this device.
Here are three major things that I think are helpful when you gift your child with a smartphone.
1. Set up programs for accountability on their phones.
There are many ways to monitor your child’s phone, and I suggest you research and find the best ways for your family. In our family, we have a program called Covenant Eyes on their phones, which monitors and restricts their internet access to our preference. Our kids must also send a request to download any app to their phone, a setting that is available on any iPhone. Their phones have restrictions on how long they can play games every day, and all access shuts off at a certain time at night. There are lots of options, so make sure you set your kids up for success by giving them boundaries before handing them a phone.
2. Check their phones often.
I can’t stress this enough. Even with all the boundaries in place there are still plenty of things to monitor on their phones. Texting, social media, photos, and so many other things are worth monitoring. We have our kids plug their phones in our room each night, and many nights you will find me scrolling through their text messages and photos. Also, don’t let your kids try and convince you that this is their personal property and you can’t look. You are the parent. They are the child. The phone belongs to you. Their phone is very much your business!
3. Be a good example of healthy phone use.
If we are going to teach our kids how to have a healthy relationship with their phones, we need to look at what example we are setting for them. Create times where they see you intentionally put your phone away. Set boundaries for everyone in the home, not just the kids, on when phones are to be out. Have conversations with your kids about ways that you are not letting yourself be too attached to you phone.
No matter when you gift your child with their first phone it can be a bit scary. No matter what boundaries you set up, and accountability you enforce, there will be times your child fails. Here’s the encouragement for you as you walk through this new time – you have the unique opportunity to help your child learn how to handle technology they will be using for the rest of their lives. View this experience as a teaching opportunity. Don’t just hand them a phone blindly and expect them to figure out how to handle the complexities that it entails. Instead, walk with them, teaching them and loving them along the way.
Want to read more from Jamie Ivey? Check out her other LifeWay Voices post.