How Smart Are You : Think back 10 years, where you were, what you were doing. Could you have imagined a gadget, which was affordable, fit in the palm of your hand, and which was a phone, pager, camera, personal organizer, GPS, Walkman, computer and camcorder all in one? I know I couldn’t – it would have sounded like something from a sci-fi movie!
Smartphones are amazing. They’ve changed the World, as well as how we communicate with each other and how we can manage our lives. It’s safe to say that they are a marvel of the modern age. All those functions mean that the smartphone gives us fantastic opportunities to be more productive and stay in touch better. On the flip-side, they can cause problems and, in the case of your kids, they can simply be dangerous.
I’m not trying to be alarmist, and I’m not against technology, or advocating locking children away from the outside World – it’s simply some suggestions of how to get the most out of Smartphone technology and avoiding the pitfalls – particularly when it comes to teenagers.
For starters, we all know that smartphones are far more than just a phone, – that’s why we have them! However, when your kid has a Blackberry, iPhone or whatever their gadget of choice is, they have a powerful web-connected computer in their pocket. “So what?” I hear you cry. “My kid has a PC at home, too. How is this any different?” In reality, you have much greater control on what your child interacts with on a home computer, be it through supervision or parental controls.
The benefit of mobile internet becomes a risk factor:
your child can access the internet any place, any time, including without your supervision. If they can access the web to do their homework, they can also access it to do other things when they should be studying, and when they should be asleep. When I was a child, I used to sneak a book and a torch under the covers and secretly read. Is your teen updating their Facebook status?
Smartphones are small, mobile and leave the home a lot, which makes it easy for them to end up in the hands of other people. This can lead to sensitive information, like home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and private photos ending up somewhere they shouldn’t.
I’m not suggesting that people ban their kids from smartphones, but here are a few tips to help your kids be smart with their smartphones:
1) Lead by Example: Young people learn their values from their parents, often subconsciously. If you text when you’re driving, your kids will subconsciously register that this is OK. Show your children sensible smartphone usage by your own behavior.
2) Talk: We all know that prevention better than cure, so talk with your child about all the potential situations before they arise. As with all new experiences, set some ground rules for use of their Smartphone. Give your child the tools to make the right choices and keep the channels of communication open should they need your help.
3) Keep a watchful eye on your bills: A careful look at your bills will soon tell you at what time of day (or night) your child is using the phone. Is it in line with the ground rules you agreed?
4) Make sure that phones are away at night: Plugging phones in to charge overnight or putting them into docking stations downstairs before teenagers go to bed can help prevent texting and surfing in the middle of the night..
5) Protect your child’s phone with a passcode: Passcodes are easy to set up, cost nothing, and help prevent inappropriate use of your child’s phone by others.
All of these tips are easy to follow and cost nothing, but can save a lot of heartache down the line. Young people these days may have different challenges to those you experienced at their age, but they still need your help to be SMART about how they use their smartphone.