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How to Set Limits After Kids Get Their First Phones

Friday, 10 July, 2020

Jana Dalby

Every parent today struggles with the same questions: When should they get their kid’s first phone? And once they get that phone, what does appropriate usage look like?

Certainly, carrying a phone can keep kids safe and help them socialize. But beyond dangers like porn culture, phones can be addictive. According to a report by Common Sense Media, almost 62% of teens spend more than four hours a day looking at a screen. And 29% use screens more than eight hours a day. 

Helping Kids Set Healthy Phone Habits

To create a healthy relationship between your kids and technology, you need to set limits. Kids need to learn how often and why they should — and shouldn’t — be using their phones. 

Here are a few ways to do that:

Create a Schedule 

It’s the “new toy” principle: When you give a kid their first phone, they’re going to want to use it all the time.

It’s important to set a schedule for your kids to ensure they don’t spend all their time with their electronics. The schedule can be as flexible or strict as needed. Work together with your child to set “never ever” hours, a daily maximum, and a weekly maximum.  

Do carve out exemptions. For example, if you purchased your kids first phone to help them do research for schoolwork, you probably shouldn’t take it away during homework time. Just be sure your kids are actually using their phones to study, and not just playing games or scrolling through Instagram. 

Set Restrictions

The key to any healthy relationship is setting clear boundaries. The same applies to your kids and their first phone. 

With that said, children don’t always know how to set their own boundaries. That’s where you come in as the parent. Instead of letting your kids use their phones anywhere, give them specific restrictions. 

For example, don’t let your kids take their phones to their bedroom. Don’t allow phones at the dinner table. During a conversation, make sure all phones are put away. 

Hold Them Accountable

The schedule you set is important, but it’s more important that it’s actually followed. 

Don’t let them charm you into more screen time or make you feel guilty for setting a schedule. Remember, you’re the parent; you get to call the shots and decide what’s important.

If your kid isn’t following the schedule you set out, have a conversation. Expect some push-back in the beginning. If it continues, take their phone away temporarily to show that their actions have consequences. 

Lead by Example

Before you give your child a schedule for using their first phone, take a look at yourself: Do you check your phone at the dinner table? Do you watch TV while scrolling through Facebook?

If you constantly use your phone, your kids will do the same. Before you tell your children when and where to use their phone, consider cutting back your time in front of the screen. If you do make a mistake, own up to it in front of your kids.

Talk Through Appropriate Uses

It’s important your kids realize that phones can be used in constructive and destructive ways. Sure, phones can be used to scroll through social media. But they can also be used to connect with loved ones, conduct research, and discover new things. 

It’s crucial kids see their phone as a way to access information, not just something to mindlessly scroll through when they’re bored. Give them books and puzzles so they’re not just relying on electronics to entertain. 

Keep An Eye Out

There are always new apps coming out, and not all of them are appropriate for kids. Make sure you’re paying attention to what your kids are downloading. A good way to do that is by sitting with them from time to time to see what’s on their screen. 

As a parent, it’s your job to protect your kids. You can’t do that if you don’t know what TikTok is or which apps have poor privacy controls. Make sure you do your research and stay informed. 

Switch Up Their Screens

These days, you can do pretty much everything with a wireless phone. But that doesn’t mean your kid’s first phone should be the only way they consume digital media. 

Instead of letting them watch movies on their iPhone, encourage them to pop something on the TV for everyone to watch. Get them a Kindle rather than expecting them to read everything on their phone. 

Use Parental Control Software

Are you worried about your children having unlimited access to the world without your knowledge? You’re not alone. That’s one of the many reasons parents are hesitant to buy their kid’s first phone.

Thankfully, parental control tools can provide a safety net. You can also use these features to see how much time your kids are spending on their phones. 

Buying your kids first phone is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And while there are drawbacks, you can’t hold out forever. When you decide it’s time, make sure you get the introduction right.