Does your child’s holiday wish-list include a mobile phone or other electronic device? With kids and teens spending more time online than ever these days due to social distancing guidelines and remote-learning, you may feel the time is now to gift them their very own device.
However, as a result of all that additional screen time, families should be doubly sure that kids use their devices safely and responsibly. After the holiday gift-giving excitement settles, consider these tips:
• Driver’s safety: While no one should ever text and drive, newer drivers need to be especially mindful of the road and the operation of their vehicle. Have a serious discussion about distracted driving. Cell phone usage was responsible for 12 percent of moderate-to-severe crashes of teen drivers studied by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 2015.
• Extend the device’s life: Let’s face it, devices are highly breakable and easily lost. Extend the life of your child’s device by ensuring the gift is accompanied by a protective case and warranty. Talk to your child about what to do if the device gets wet, and have a backup plan for the event that it’s lost and your child needs to reach you. Installing a location monitoring app can help you locate the device in a pinch.
• Set ground rules. A few ground rules can help ensure your child uses their new device responsibly. These rules may involve schedules for when the device can be used for purposes unrelated to school, as well as limits on what apps and sites your child can access. Talk to your kids about such topics as healthy digital habits, the need for screen-free time each day, and how and why to report cyberbullying and other inappropriate or abusive online behavior.
• Make your rules stick. In so many areas of parenting, creating rules is easier than getting your child to follow them. However, a parental guidance app can help make your digital rules effective. For example, OurPact allows you to remotely set up automated schedules for when internet, apps and the device itself are unavailable. Features include URL whitelisting and blacklisting, daily screen time allowances and iMessage/SMS blocking, helping you ensure your ground rules stick and that all the apps installed on your child’s device pass your approval. Available at the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, parents can also sign up for an account at www.ourpact.com.
• Lead the way. Don’t text during dinner. Put your phone away when you are driving. Build goodwill and mutual respect by following the same rules you give your child.
If a digital device is in your child’s future this holiday season, be sure that gift comes with the know-how to use it safely and responsibly.