How to Survive Giving Your Child Their First Phone

Modern Parenting Tips
By
Derek Jackson
Oct 19, 2021
4 min read

If you're reading this, you'd probably rather I tell you about the best way to stop your child from wanting a smartphone so you wouldn't have to figure out which one to buy, and you'd no longer have the worry about that impending day when they get that phone, dive into social media, and everything changes. But unfortunately, that's impossible. Children want phones at younger ages every year, so it's better that you buckle up and prepare yourself for the joy of this next phase.

Instead, here are some simple tips on what NOT to do when thinking through this decision:

  1. Don't avoid bringing up the conversation about social media or pretend like nothing is going to change.
  2. Don't throw them into the deep end when they are first learning to swim.
  3. Don't handcuff and limit them so that they can't learn and experience on their own.

I don't agree that smartphones and the internet are inherently bad for children. Your child will eventually get access to a smartphone and social media, so it's better that you start teaching them how to be responsible early.

Ideas are like seeds -- they need to be nurtured in order to grow. One of the best ways that you can nurture your child's ideas at an early age is by giving them lots of opportunities for creative play and exploration. Early childhood experts recommend at least three hours a week of unstructured time in which kids get their hands on materials like paper, cardboard boxes, crayons, markers, and scissors; use these materials to make pictures or sculptures; invent stories about what they create, or just let their imagination run free. The more your child plays creatively now, the more likely it is that he or she will become an innovative adult later. 

Yet, when it comes to giving kids access to a smartphone or social media, the most popular advice suggests screen time limitation, extreme structure, and prevention by blocking certain apps and sites. In my mind, that means that the less your child has the freedom to try and fail on social media, the less likely it is that he or she will be able to handle the pressures and freedom that the internet can offer.

What you need to do instead:

Bring up the conversation about social media ASAP. If they are next to you, do it right now. If they aren't, then when you pick them up from school today or when you're eating dinner, ask about it. Show genuine curiosity into the apps that their friends use. Ask them about what they would do if one of their friends asked them for a nude picture. You need to be the one that introduces them to the kinds of things that can happen and talk about a response that involves you.

Choose a phone that gives you access, not control. You need to understand what is going on so that you can show that you are interested and care. It's not about turning the phone off for certain hours of the day. It's about seeing the content they interact with, the context of where they see it and why they like it, and understanding the connections they make with people you know or potentially complete strangers.

Ultimately, give them the freedom to fall down but be there to pick them up without them having to ask you for it. It will cement your bond, increase their trust for you, and keep the connection you crave. But the only way that is possible is to be involved in a non-judgmental and non-controlling way.

Regardless of what you choose to do, it's imperative that you are involved. This is the only way your child will learn how to be responsible for themselves online now with you, or else they will have to learn on their own later when they become an adult. The best thing you can do is teach them about the risks associated with social media so that they know what to expect. You must show genuine curiosity, ask them about uncomfortable topics, and give them access with your involvement.

"It's encouraging to know that, as parents, you do not have to be left in the dark, you can be involved. That's quite a powerful tool."
Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart Foundation
"Helping parents prepare for the gamut of situations to which social media opens the door has made [Cyber Dive] venture more valuable than the bottom line."
Georgann Yara
azcentral
"If we're concerned about stranger danger... what about a stranger getting into your child's direct messages? It can be just as dangerous, if not more so."
Billy Harfosh
iHeartRadio
"In a society that relies so much on virtual connection, it is necessary that we teach our children how to navigate and use technology responsibly."
Dawn Van Vamp
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
"As a Lawman and a parent I love seeing solutions for protecting children from the child predators. This Aqua One phone helps parents and even addresses the mental health of the child. Well done Cyber Dive."
Sheriff Mark Lamb
Sheriff of Pinal County Arizona
"[Aqua One] was just launched and is going to change the way that our children grow up in a technology-driven world."
Desire Briggs
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
“One of the neatest parts about the tool is that it gives insight into not only the safety of what my child is doing out there but what my child is thinking.”
Brian Steele
CEO of Phoenix Dream Center
“Being informed of your child's social media habits isn't just beneficial from a safety standpoint. You'll get an inside look at what your kid is into and enjoying.”
Larissa Marulli
moms.com
"It's encouraging to know that, as parents, you do not have to be left in the dark, you can be involved. That's quite a powerful tool."
Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart Foundation
"Helping parents prepare for the gamut of situations to which social media opens the door has made [Cyber Dive] venture more valuable than the bottom line."
Georgann Yara
azcentral
"If we're concerned about stranger danger... what about a stranger getting into your child's direct messages? It can be just as dangerous, if not more so."
Billy Harfosh
iHeartRadio
"In a society that relies so much on virtual connection, it is necessary that we teach our children how to navigate and use technology responsibly."
Dawn Van Vamp
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
"As a Lawman and a parent I love seeing solutions for protecting children from the child predators. This Aqua One phone helps parents and even addresses the mental health of the child. Well done Cyber Dive."
Sheriff Mark Lamb
Sheriff of Pinal County Arizona
"[Aqua One] was just launched and is going to change the way that our children grow up in a technology-driven world."
Desire Briggs
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
“One of the neatest parts about the tool is that it gives insight into not only the safety of what my child is doing out there but what my child is thinking.”
Brian Steele
CEO of Phoenix Dream Center
“Being informed of your child's social media habits isn't just beneficial from a safety standpoint. You'll get an inside look at what your kid is into and enjoying.”
Larissa Marulli
moms.com

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