Managing Kids with Smartphones

Managing kids and smartphones and how we are handling it in our home. I am also sharing the contract we had our kids sign when they received their phones. Everything over on the Haus of Layne blog #Parenting #Kids #KidsAndTechnology

We never really discussed it, you know? The official age that we felt our kids were ready for the responsibility of a phone. Jarett and I are that tough group of people – I think they call us Xenials now – the group that know life with and without technology. And we struggle with establishing that line and deciding which side we need to be on and when. It’s a definite juggling act because we want to make sure our kids have a childhood of moments and play and imagining and the outdoors, etc. However, we also don’t want to shelter them and we have to accept the fact that technology isn’t going away. So today I wanted to share with you my thoughts on managing kids with smartphones and how we are doing it in our home.

In our home we don’t have an overabundance of devices. We are Apple users (a lot of this has to do with the field of work I am in and Apple is just more media friendly) so we knew that when it came time for our kids to have phones it would be iPhones. I say this because a lot of talk in the parenting world about this subject has people saying not to buy smartphones for kids if it is a concern – you should then just purchase them an older non smart phone. The only reason that we decided on iPhones is because their phone would then work as their tablet/computer device. We are very low maintenance in our home and we firmly believe that our kids, nor do we, need the latest and greatest and they shouldn’t expect it. We also make sure they know that if Mom and Dad don’t have it, they definitely aren’t getting it. The other benefit to them having iPhones when it came time was because we can sync everything between all of our phones – calendar events, music, photos, etc.

So, as I mentioned, Jarett and I never discussed an official age or timeline of when our kids would get a phone. About two years ago we found Tanner away from us more and more between club soccer practices, Cub scouts, school activities and being at friends’ houses. I would love to say that I don’t need the satisfaction of being able to reach my kid anytime I feel like it, but I do. I decided that I would feel more comfortable with Tanner having something for me to get a hold of him when he was away from us. So we had a long talk about it because he was only nine at that time. To us, this sounded shockingly young, however, if you met Tanner you would understand – he is a much older nine year old. This doesn’t mean that he is not immature sometimes or doesn’t screw up. He is just very mature in so many ways. So, Christmas of 2015 is when we gifted Tanner his own iPhone.

Managing kids and smartphones and how we are handling it in our home. I am also sharing the contract we had our kids sign when they received their phones. Everything over on the Haus of Layne blog #Parenting #Kids #KidsAndTechnology

Since that time, I have to say that our experience with having a child with access to a smartphone has been wonderful. When he was gifted the phone, it came with a big talk on responsibility, a list of ten concrete rules that were not negotiable as well as a contract he had to sign. The list of rules in our home goes as follows when it comes to devices and smartphones:

  1. Our kids are not to have their phone or device in their bedroom at any time without Mom or Dad present. Charging at night happens in the designated spot or in Mom and Dad’s bedroom.
  2. Phones and devices are not allowed at the table for any meal. When we sit down to eat, we have conversations with each other whether it be one other family member or all of us.
  3. Our kids are not allowed to have social media or be on social media of any kind.
  4. When out in public or at the store, they are to have their phone or device put away in their pocket so that they can walk and see where they are going as well as look people in the eye.
  5. YouTube is allowed, but they can only watch the handful of approved channels that Dad and I have given them.
  6. If our children are not maintaining A’s and B’s for their grades, their phone account is shut down and they do not get it back until their grades are up.
  7. We check phones every night to read text messages and make sure apps have not been downloaded that we are not aware of.
  8. Any game or app that has a chat feature is not allowed – even if you can turn the function off within the game.
  9. Despite having a phone or device that is capable, all reading has to come from an actual book or printed publication. We do not allow them to read digital books and they are expected to read their scriptures from the actual book and not the app on their phone.
  10. They are not allowed to add a passcode that they have not given to Dad and I first.

We then had Tanner sign an agreement contract stating that he understood these rules along with several others that go with having a phone – we added more to the contract that covered more behavioral things like no phone during school hours, putting your phone away when being spoken to, etc. You can download that same contract for FREE right here.

Managing kids and smartphones and how we are handling it in our home. I am also sharing the contract we had our kids sign when they received their phones. Everything over on the Haus of Layne blog #Parenting #Kids #KidsAndTechnology

Because we decided that our children will not be on social media, we don’t find that it has created another full time job for Dad and I to take the time to monitor things. We simply go through his text messages at night and that is it. We don’t have to login to different apps to see what he has been doing which has been nice and the kids know that they will probably not be on social media all the way through high school. Jarett and I have had long talks about this and our gut is telling us that, for our family, we do not want our kids using social media until they have become a much more mature age and are out of high school. There are so many reasons, but the main one is we don’t want our children subjected to what goes on within social media from inappropriate things to bullying to time wasting. We have told them that they need to be busy living their lives instead of watching others live theirs. This same rule applies to YouTube. We have only approved the following channels/type of videos for entertainment purposes and not reality TV of random people:

  1. Dude Perfect
  2. Nerdy Nummies
  3. Studio C
  4. NFL / ESPN sports recaps and replays
  5. And Mom’s channel

I want to make sure that I am not making this sound like it’s been a breeze. The main thing I would say to fellow parents is to stick to your guns, stay on top of it and lead by example. Let me give you a few scenarios…

Stick to Your Guns. As parents, this is absolutely exhausting. To actually do what you say because as much as we think of them as little babes, they are not. They know how to work a situation and how to squeeze the life out of you sometimes. When we told Tanner that his phone would be taken away due to bad grades, we meant it. Last Spring he came home with two C’s and we called Verizon and had his phone number frozen for two months while he worked to get them back up. Mean what you say.

Stay On Top of It. Don’t let it get out of control to the point where it’s a war zone to get them back on track. If you pass them in the house and they are on their device, ask them way they are doing or up to. If you hear them listening to a video ask what it is. This doesn’t mean you have to be looking over their shoulder, but be aware of what they are doing and keep up with your nightly ritual of reading texts and checking apps – it will take no more than 5 to 10 minutes.

Lead by Example. This is the biggest one and it does get hard sometimes, but we know that if they see us treating devices the way we should then they will know that is what is expected. Dad and I do not bring our phones to the dinner table, we leave them plugged in when talking and hanging out with our kids and we really try not to have them out while driving. We don’t text and drive – we just make a phone call instead – but when we hear our phone go off we do glance at the message that popped up. This is something we will be working even more on in the new year.

Also in the new year, we are going to be using Circle by Disney in our home as a way to manage things even more since Blake will be receiving her first phone as one of her Christmas gifts – shhh, don’t tell her! We have heard wonderful things about this device through fellow parents and friends who have used it so we are hoping it helps us tackle it all in a less is more kind of way since we will be adding more and more devices to our lives as the kids get older. I will let you know what I think about it after we begin using it in 2018.

I hope this helps you in some way if you are currently deciding on a phone or no phone for your child and for whatever age they are. I think it can be an extremely positive experience, not to mention an experience of responsibility for the child, but you as the parent have to be ready to commit. You have to be ready to be with them every step of the way to teach appropriate behavior and respect when it comes to technology and what it can bring into our lives. We decide through our actions and behavior if having access to things like a phone will be a positive or negative experience.

Please feel free to post below any questions you have about how we have handled this in our home or what we have come across and experienced. And even if you have advice or tips on this subject, be sure to post those for others reading!





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