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To Smartphone? Or, not to Smartphone?

Focus on the “Why”… and the “When” will be a lot easier.

“When should we give our children their own smartphones?”  Spoiler alert!  There is absolutely no consensus on how to answer this fundamental question for raising kids in the Digital Era.  The most common and most logical recommendation goes something like, “there is no specific age at which a smartphone should (or should not) be given to a child.  Rather, parents should determine the right time based on their child’s maturity.”  Again, not very helpful.

FamPlan provides strategies and actions parents can take to give their children a head-start at maintaining a healthy relationship with their digital devices, reaping the rewards we have all been promised, and hopefully, avoiding the dire outcomes so many of us fear.  We organize these strategies into four, easy to learn categories.  Model – Delay – Manage – Connect  In our previous post, Kids and Smartphones… Be a Good Role Model, we described the concept of parents as positive role models.  This blog post explains the concepts of “Delaying” your child’s smartphone all together.

The only strategy that ensures your child will not experience the negative consequences of having a smartphone is to Delay giving them one.

Rather than ask “when should my child receive a smartphone”?  Ask the question a bit differently, and from your own perspective.

Why do WE (parents) want our child to have a smartphone?

This is a question you have a chance of answering.  But first, let’s quickly review why you might NOT want your child to have a smartphone.  For all of the research we have done on this topic, no person or group has stated the challenges associated with “Kids and Smartphones” more succinctly than Wait Until 8th (go check them out).  Founder and Mom, Brooke Shannon sums it up like this, “concerns over social and relational impairment, as well as addiction, distraction, depression, and exposure to mature content.”  Whoa!  This is scary!  At a minimum, it should cause you to pause and consider your options.

So with all of the potential bad outcomes related to smartphones, why do so many parents decide to give them to their children at increasingly younger ages?  (Kid’s and Tech: The Evolution of Today’s Digital Natives citing 2016 statistics states “kids are getting a first [smart]phone at 10.3 years old“.)  Of course, we hear many answers.  However, the one answer that almost every parent we interview includes in their response is, “we (parents) need the ability to be connected with our kids”.  Some parents qualify this statement with “in an emergency”.  Others cite the complexity and urgency of their busy schedules.  The point is, we all gave our kids a phone for the ability to connect with them when we are not together.

As honorable as our intentions may have been, in many families, connecting with our children via their smartphone regarding urgent and/or important matters represents a small fraction of how we (and they) use our devices.  As parents, it is our responsibility to determine when the Need of having a smartphone outweighs the Risk of having a smartphone.  And unfortunately, FamPlan cannot tell you when you should make that call.  We can offer this simple advice;

Parenting Tip… If they do not need a smartphone… Or, if they have not earned a smartphone… they do not get a smartphone.

In summary, delaying the day you give your child a smartphone ensures that they are safe from the potential negative impacts of having a smartphone.  And, whether you “Wait Until 8th” or you decide your child is mature enough for a smartphone earlier, always remember Your Why.  And finally, don’t be overly worried about what you ultimately decide.  There are strategies for ensuring your child’s smartphone experience is safe and productive.  We will share some of those strategies in our next post, “Manage the Phone… Not the Child“.

And, until next time #DoMoreHappy

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Kids and Smartphones… Be a Good Role Model

You are your child’s most Important Role Model

If you read the first post in this series Smartphone or Dumb Distraction, you are already aware that FamPlan believes that without their parents’ guidance, kids are just as likely to have negative experiences with their digital devices as they are to have positive experiences.  And depending on the age and maturity of the child in question, the outcomes of these negative experiences can have significant and lingering consequences.  Don’t worry.  We have a Plan!

FamPlan provides strategies and actions parents can take to give their children a head-start at maintaining a healthy relationship with their digital devices, reaping the rewards we have all been promised, and hopefully, avoiding the dire outcomes so many of us fear.  And, we organize these strategies into four, easy to learn categories.  Model – Delay – Manage – Connect

Best Practices to Model with Smartphones

Success is a well studied discipline.  Whether we’re discussing the best approach school or work, how we interact with friends and family, or best practices for how to use our smartphones, following the same strategies as positive role models often leads to success.  And when we are talking about our children, the most important role models most kids will ever have are their parents.

Apologies if you feel you have been tricked.  But Yes, this post is about how you should be using our technology…  And No, parents are not always the best role models.  However, we owe to our kids to be the best role models we can be.

“The surest way to achieve success is to model someone who is already successful.”  Anthony Robbins

The following list was generated by a group of teens and preteens in my living room.  This list took less than two minutes for them to create.  And they not only implied, but they outright stated that their parents (yes, I am one of said parents) were providing these bad examples.

  1. Put away the phone during conversation.  Don’t just turn of the sounds.  Place the phone in airplane mode and leave it somewhere you cannot see it.  It is amazing how codependent we have become with these little devices.  Remember… there is no relationship more important than that of parent and child.  Treat it as such.
  2. No phones while driving.  Yes, the public service reminders tell us not to text and drive.  But, this goes for almost every function the phone provides.  If you need to check maps or other travel-specific information while in the car, find a place to stop.  And 9 times out of 10, calls can wait.  Here’s a Parenting tip… if Mom calls while you are driving the children, ask the children to answer the phone.
  3. No videos, alarms, or ringers in public.  Noise pollution!  Please be considerate of others.
  4. No phones at the Dinner table.  Once again, relationships make the world go round.  And for your family, there is no better opportunity to share experiences, thoughts and dreams than at the family meal.  Pro-Dad tip… Make time for Family Dinner and ditch the phones.
  5. No screens before bedtime.  This advice supports both physical health and mental health.  The “blue light” emitted by smartphones is interpreted by our brains as daylight.  As such, it stimulates your brain at the very time when you want to be winding down.  And form a psychological standpoint, searching for that one last affirmation in the social media haystack is far more likely to lead to anxiety that it is to lead to contentment.

This list is by no means scientific or exhaustive.  It is based on a variety of sources and readings, and as stated earlier, the observations of a group of kids.

The most important concept to remember from this post is that your children watch you… they learn from you… they want to be like you.  Be mindful of what you are teaching them.

Check out the second FamPlan strategy for Kids and Smartphones, Our Kids. To Smartphone? Or, not to Smartphone?

And as always, #DoMoreHappy 

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“Smartphone” or “Dumb Distraction”

Your Kids and Smartphones… You Better Have a Plan.

In at least one urgently important way, childhood is radically different for today’s kids than it was for their parents.  Kids can now, quite literally, be connected with the entire world, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Parents, educators, and the medical community have good reason to be concerned.  Cyberbullying, screen addiction, inappropriate content, and myriad other challenges are real issues for young people navigating a complex, online world.  And when kids run into challenges, the results can range from “bummer” to “life-altering”.

While being “over-connected” to the outside world can be scary, the flip-side of this “connectivity challenge” is just as important.  Children are becoming less connected with family and friends.  And, this makes sense…  when all that is required to steer clear of a challenging conversation is a quick tweet and the requisite emoji, it’s little wonder that today’s kids find it increasingly difficult to communicate face-to-face.  And though this side of situation may not seem as directly negative in its impact, the outcomes are no less serious in a child’s long-term ability to thrive and be happy.

In fact, the physical and mental-health impacts that are now attributed, both directly and indirectly, to smartphones have been well documented (see The Atlantic’s, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation).  Smartphones, sleep patterns, lack of exercise, relationships, anxiety and depression are all now interconnected.  And as painful as it may be to admit, smartphones are going to remain a part of modern life for all of us.

What can parents do to prepare and protect their kids?

Now that we are all on the same page regarding the importance of the challenge, what is a conscientious parent to do?  Don’t lose hope just yet!  Truth be told, there are quite a few actions parents can take, to both protect their children from the most destructive impacts of using smartphones, and to teach kids habits and life-lessons that will serve them well into the future.  FamPlan adheres to a straightforward methodology described as “Model -> Delay -> Manage -> Connect“.  In a nutshell, one might refer to this as “Strategies for Parenting Digital Kids”.

As with most things that are worthwhile, the concepts are simple, while the details are a bit trickier.  So, we’ll dig in deeper in our next post, Kids and Smartphones… Be a Good Role Model.

Until next time…  #DoMoreHappy