Today in USA Today, there is an article with practical, sound advice for parents about kids, smartphones and social media. In “When should a kid get their first smartphone? And other parenting questions of the social media age” Brett Molina interviews Scott Steinberg, author of the book “Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide.”
“You really need to help give kids the training and insights they need to make better decisions and to let them know they have safe places to turn when they need assistance, insight or help,” he said.
Meanwhile, kids are getting their first smartphone at younger ages. A 2016 study from research firm Influence Central found the average age for getting a first smartphone is 10.3 years old, down from 12 in 2012.
“We’ve got entire generations of kids who are growing up now with smartphones, online apps, and technology that is second nature to them. But we’ve done preciously little to prepare them for life in an always online and connected world,” Steinberg said.
One of the questions that Sternberg answered was, “If you had one piece of advice for parents about kids and technology, what would it be?” His answer was that we should be just as involved in our kids’ social media lives as all other aspects of their lives. I never thought of that before, but it makes sense because more and more of our children’s communication is done online. They chat with their friends, share thoughts and secrets–all online. They communicate through email with teachers. We should know what they are doing and who they are “hanging out” with.
Should we intrude on their online presence? It’s not their diary, but it’s something they are potentially sharing with the rest of the world. I was surprised to find out that one of my kids had tweeted a few things that were less than appropriate. This fact was pointed out to us by the swim coach. I was furious and embarrassed. At the time, I didn’t know how to use Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever other social media my kids were using. I only knew Facebook. It was a good lesson that my child learned before it was too late and real damage was done. I decided to keep an eye on what they were posting and got up to speed on the various platforms. Even the nicest kids may not understand what won’t look great to a future college coach, admissions or a boss. Sternberg said parents should do their homework and learn what apps their children are using.
My kids didn’t grow up with smartphones and I’m thankful for that. They got their first smartphones as teens. Often, I think our lives would be greatly improved if we tossed the smartphones out and returned to regular old phones that make phone calls and text only.
When do you think kids should get smartphones and how involved do you think parents should be in our children’s social media lives?