Children and Smartphones​—Part 2: Teaching Children Smartphone Sense

Children and Smartphones​—Part 2: Teaching Children Smartphone Sense

 A smartphone is like a power tool—it can be helpful or harmful, depending on how it is used. How can you teach your children to show good judgment with this powerful device? For example, how much screen time is too much? a

 What you should know

  •   The smartphone exposes the user to danger. As shown in the article “Children and Smartphones—Part 1: Should My Child Have a Smartphone?” the smartphone provides access to everything the Internet has to offer, both good and bad.

     “It’s easy to forget that a smartphone can expose our children to all sorts of dangerous people and ideas.”—Brenda.

  •   Children need guidance. Young people were born into the culture of technology, whereas many adults are relative newcomers to it. However, this doesn’t mean that parents are technologically incompetent and that kids are better qualified to decide how and when to use their smartphones.

     Granted, your children might be more adept than you are at navigating a smartphone, but do not confuse ability with maturity. Even tech-savvy children need parental guidance when it comes to the responsible use of a smartphone.

     “Giving your child a smartphone without training is like giving him the keys to a car, sitting him in the driver’s seat, starting the engine, and saying ‘Please be careful’ without first giving him driving lessons.”—Seth.

 What you can do

  •   Learn the features of your child’s phone. Become familiar with the tools that can help your child use the phone responsibly. For example:

     What parental controls does the phone have to limit usage?

     Do you know that phone settings that block inappropriate content are not foolproof?

     The more you know about your child’s smartphone, the better prepared you will be to help him use it responsibly.

     Bible principle: “With knowledge a man increases his power.”—Proverbs 24:5.

  •   Set boundaries. Decide what you will and will not allow. For example:

     Will you allow your child to bring the phone to the dinner table or to use it while visiting with family or friends?

     Should your children have their phone in the bedroom overnight?

     What apps will you allow?

     How much screen time is too much?

     Will you set a time limit on daily usage?

     Make your rules known, and be prepared to enforce disciplinary measures if the rules are broken.

     Bible principle: “Do not hold back discipline from a youth.”—Proverbs 23:13, footnote.

  •   Monitor. Know your child’s password, and check the contents of his or her phone as needed, including text messages, apps, pictures, and sites visited.

     “We told our daughter that we might make periodic unannounced checks on her phone. Her phone privileges were subject to change if she was irresponsible with it.”—Lorraine.

     As a parent, you have every right to know how your child’s smartphone is being used.

     Bible principle: “A child is known by his actions, whether his behavior is pure and right.”—Proverbs 20:11.

  •   Teach values. Help your child want to do what is right. Why is that important? Because a determined child may try to work around a parent’s best efforts at monitoring. b

     Therefore, train your child to have virtuous qualities such as honesty, self-control, and a sense of responsibility for his or her actions. A child who has moral values is more likely to use a phone wisely.

     Bible principle: “Mature people . . . have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.

a In this article, the term “smartphone” refers to a cell phone that can access the Internet. Essentially, it is a minicomputer.

b For example, some use a “ghost app” that appears innocent—like a calculator, for example—to hide content that they do not want their parents to see.