What works for one family and one child does not necessarily work for another. We discuss when to give your child a smart phone, family contracts, how to manage cell phone use and why digital communication is important to our children.
Is my child ready for a smart phone?
Children mature at different rates. CyberCivics, a digital citizenship program we use in 6th grade, suggests children need seven key skills to demonstrate smartphone readiness. Wait until 8th has another set of guidelines and considerations.
School policies change every year, but smartphones in classrooms are mostly a distraction and interfere with learning. Current policy disallows phones in classrooms.
TBD: SLV needs a Student-Centered Acceptable Use Policy / tech-use policy - ideally with separate signature line (including parent signature) in revised student handbooks
One of the most insightful comments about screens and children is: Once they have a browser and an online presence, that will become the focus of their world, not your family. While children and adolescents learn very fast, they struggle making good decisions. If you think there are things you still want to teach your children, to connect with them about, then you, as parent, will take this statement seriously. Good family agreements can guard against a wholesale “giving over to the world” while allowing a teenager to (slowly) become part of that world.
There is no one-size fits all contract - be prepared to either pick one that is only "okay" or to take time to craft one that fits your family values. Revise it over time.
- Family Device Agreement - Serious but light-hearted agreement
- Parent/Child Tech Agreement - Download (from CyberWise curriculum & works for any tech, not just smartphones)
- An iPhone Contract from your Mom, with Love
- Family Online Safety Institute - Family Online Safety Contract - Download
- Learning.com's Online Safety Guide For Parents (Comprehensive info with sample contract on page 10-13)
- Safekids.com Family contract for online safety
How to manage smart phone use
See our other pages on parent tips and technology tools. If you do not have a family contract in place, put one in place.
We did not have the internet in the palms of our hands when we grew up and instilling character and values in children in the digital age takes time and effort.
School smartphone policy
Students may have a cell phone with them at school as long as they follow the rules.
- Cell phones must be turned off and kept in the student’s backpack during school hours.
- Cell phones seen or heard will be confiscated and must be picked up by a parent, phones will not be given back to students.
- Breaking cell phone policy may result in consequences.
- The school will not be responsible for the loss, damage, or theft of cell phones. Cell phones are brought to school at the student’s own risk of consequence, loss, damage, or theft. This policy also includes the use of headphones, airpods, earbuds, and portable speakers.
- It is the student’s responsibility to contact their parent during non-class time to let them know that their phone was confiscated and needs to be picked up.
Why smart phones are important
It is the job of tweens and teens to learn how to connect and thrive socially in the world. They just do it differently than we did it. Rarely do they tie up the phone line (land line) all night or hang out at the mall. Instead, their social community is more frequently than not, online. They are building important life and social skills online. After all, think about how many facebook or linked-in connections you have. This is the world they are entering. It is our job to guide them.
They need to connect with their peers. But because the internet is a much bigger place than the mall and because bad words uttered or pictures posted on the internet can live forever (their digital footprint), good decisions are important.
It is unlikely a child raised without a smartphone will buy one after high-school and make no mistakes. It is better that parents engage with children and their technology and help them communicate safely and build digital profiles/footprints that will help their child succeed in college and career. This is no different than teaching a child to drive or helping them build their credit history. Our schools certainly believe in this as they require all high school seniors to create a senior exit portfolio.
See resources at the bottom of our parent tips page.