After having used a smartphone for a few years, it’s hard for me to remember what life was like without instant access to this technology. As I raise my tween boy – now 12 years old and in junior high – it can be difficult to remember what my childhood was like without carrying around a cell phone as he does now at his age.
My tween has just started using a cell phone: a temporary prepaid phone with no bells and whistles. Providing him with this simple technology has increased our communication and provided him with a new “cool factor” among his tween friends. Even though none of his friends use smartphones at this point, that eventuality is approaching quickly. Here’s how to be ready to transition your tween into smartphone use.
With Privilege Comes Responsibility
Your tween needs to understand that having access to a smartphone is a privilege that needs to be taken seriously. And as Uncle Ben (and Voltaire before him) famously explained to us, with great privilege comes great responsibility. Tweens need to show that they are ready for the responsibility and the privilege of using a smartphone.
Ways that your tween can demonstrate responsibility include:
- Keeping up on homework. My tween didn’t have a hard time doing homework, but he was majorly challenged when it came to actually turning in the completed work. Responsibility is both doing the work and turning it in on time. This will be reflected in their grades each quarter.
- Completing assigned chores consistently. Each member of our household has certain chores that he or she is responsible for on specific days. Following the chore list is an important skill and shows responsibility.
- Logging those completed chores consistently. We use a free program called My Job Chart to both assign consistent chores and log whether those chores have been completed. Kids can earn points for doing chores that can translate into customized rewards, including allowance or smartphone use.
Let your tween know that once he or she shows consistently responsibility, the additional privilege of smartphone use will be rewarded.
Monitor Your Tweens Use of Electronic Devices
Regardless of what electronic devices your tween is using, he or she needs to be closely monitored. Charge the devices in your room at the end of the day and then go through them, looking at web activity, texts, and social media interactions.
To get alerts regarding your tween’s online actions, install a program like Qustodio. This software allows parents to monitor all online activity, including social media and web browsing. This program also has time limits for internet access and helps keep kids safe online. Plus, it lets you know whether or not your tween is being responsible online.
Give Tweens a Cell Phone to Use
Handing over a smartphone to a tween requires an enormous amount of trust. Let your tween show that he or she is worthy of that trust by starting off with a basic, no frills cell phone to use. This cell phone is not a smartphone, which means that your tween will be able to talk and text without worrying about web or social media activity.
This simple step will ease you both into the idea of your tween using this kind of technology, giving him or her a chance to show trustworthiness and giving you less to monitor right off the bat.
Create a Smartphone Agreement
A written smartphone agreement is an important way to lay out your expectations for your tween’s smartphone usage. While there are templates online, some ideas for your agreement can include:
- Who buys the smartphone and who pays for the usage
- Whether or not the phone goes to school
- What times of the day your tween is allowed to use the phone
- Appropriate online behavior, discussing at length cyberbullying, photos, videos, and dangers of contact with people you don’t know
- What monitoring software will be on the smartphone, and that this is non-negotiable
- The smartphone can be taken away as a consequence of behavior changes
- What happens if the smartphone gets lost or broken
Using A Smartphone
Using a smartphone is a privilege that requires a great amount of trust and responsibility. Help your tween transition into using a smartphone so that you can both be ready for this big developmental shift.