Teaching Kids the Dangers of Smartphones

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Words by
Kristen Buchtel

Published on

02.26.2020

The day you hand over a smartphone to your kids should not be the same day you try to teach them all of the dangers of smartphones. As parents, you know this, but there are so many issues to cover with your kids, and so little time. How can you fit it all in?

Start with a Plan

You can fit it in by starting early. Creating a plan for your family will ensure that you fit in all the important talks that you want to have and that you are on the same page with your spouse. A plan should be a collection of parenting notes for how and when you want to address smartphone issues with your kids.

What are the important smartphone topics that you want to cover as parents? Write down your ideas and refer to your plan as needed.

Need help getting started? Smartphones have a reputation as being an older-kid parenting issue, but there are some basics you can start covering with little kids. Tack on smartphone lessons to age-appropriate life lessons that you are already teaching them.

Some of the Dangers of Smartphones

Safety and Privacy

Preschool and Elementary Kids

Safety and privacy are issues we may think have to wait until kids are mature. We often think of lurking predators, scammers, and pornographic ads trying to lure our kids.

However, younger kids can begin to understand the basic concept of watching out for themselves. They understand the concept of “stranger danger” and those same rules apply to strangers online. While preschoolers are not typically surfing the net, you can model the online stranger danger issue by talking out loud as you check your email and come across one from a strange address. You can say, “Hmmm, that is not an email I recognize, I am going to delete it.” When you get a call from an unknown number, you can say, “I don’t know that number, I am going to send that call to voicemail.” It may not seem like it at the time, but the kids are watching and learning from your every move so use that to your advantage!

Discuss the importance of keeping passwords and login information private as kids get older. If they share their information, others can access their work, change their work, or copy their work. Also, it is a good reminder for them to keep their full name, address and any other personal information out of the hands of strangers.  

Teenagers

Mentor teens to be cautious on messaging apps and social media. Before providing account information, they understand how companies are going to use it. Online quizzes can be used to collect personal data. Avoid clicking on questionable or inappropriate content.

This is where the Gabb Phone™ becomes a valuable tool for parents and kids. Kids get a chance to start using a phone for texting and calling, but without access to the Internet. This allows parents time to dive deeper into the safety and privacy issues (and other dangers of smartphones) that lie ahead. It is also added time to build trust with your teen so they can come to you later when they do run across inappropriate online issues.

Technology as a Tool Instead of Entertainment

Most people struggle with the gray area of using our phones as tools, which can easily roll into using them as entertainment. One click of a link and we are in another realm. We lose track of time. It’s easy to do.

How do you as a parent model your screen time usage? How do we teach kids to monitor their screen time?

Set up routines and use tools like timers to help young kids practice putting the screens away. As kids get older, wean them off of the tools, but continue to mentor them. Will you set up consequences for going over on screen time? Will you require your teens to turn devices into your room overnight to charge?

Online Behavior

What is appropriate online behavior? Is it okay to rant when you have a bad day? Is teasing allowed? How does teasing differ from bullying? What pictures are appropriate to post? What are the rules about posting pictures of other people? How will you get your kids to think about their online footprint?

Preschool Kids

Preschool kids are often learning how to interact with others and using basic manners, such as saying “please” and “thank you.” At this age, it’s a good time to talk about how to have good manners if you are talking with someone online. What are the manners used when you Facetime a grandparent? Do you walk away while they are talking? Do you have to wait your turn to talk?

Elementary School Kids

In elementary school, kids will interact with others online more often through classroom projects. Mentoring how to communicate through writing will be important, as there is not body language to help sort out the context of a conversation. Discuss how teasing within written communication can be hard to interpret when we can’t see the body language of another. Will that person consider it bullying?

Teenagers

Teens’ online behavior may be reviewed by colleges and future employers—and these stakes are high. There can also be legal ramifications if teens’ online behaviors break laws.

How will you approach the dangers of smartphones with your kids? It is never too early to start creating a plan! Doing so will build your parenting confidence as you navigate all of the screens and devices within your family.

Kristen Buchtel

Founder at Noteworthy Parenting

Kristin Buchtel and her husband live in Westminster, Colorado, near their four adult children. After receiving her master's degree in elementary education, Kristin taught in K-3 classrooms for more than 10 years and received two District Values Awards. Kristin is the author of Noteworthy Parenting: How to Use Your Own IDEAS to Create Your Parenting Roadmap—a guide book to help parents create routines and goals for their unique family needs. They say there is no instruction manual for parenting, but Kristin knows Noteworthy Parenting is a step in the right direction!

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