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When is your Family ready for Smart Phones

As our children grow up, there comes a time when we need to decide if we are ready for our kids to have smartphones. Parents who take an intentional approach with this often ask, “how do we know if our child is ready for the privilege and responsibility?”

At Solutions Parenting Support, we are clear that it is not just the child that needs to be ready, but also the parents. Rather than having an answer that is the universal “this is what you should do”, understanding that each family is unique in their focus and values, we encourage you to find the right questions to ask yourselves to help determine your readiness.

The HOME Model that guides our coaching asks you to Hone, Own, Master and Enact the tools you need to manage any situation better.

  • Hone: sharpen, get clear and specific, shape your home with intention around smartphones
  • Own: know what you have control over, identify your strengths and struggles, own it
  • Master: Find the tools and skills you need to master in order to do this well
  • Enact: Put it into place and follow through

One theme we carry throughout our work with parents is to notice what you have control over. The first and perhaps most important aspect to examine for yourself is, “what tools do I use to regulate my emotions through challenges?” Introducing smartphones into your children’s lives will undoubtedly change the tone of the home. The very least of this is the fact that you will have one more thing to manage, to create rules for, to monitor. You have to be clear what you want to hold your children accountable for and set everyone up for success. So, if you know that you go to bed at 9 and you want your kids to hand their phones in to you in the evening, have the shut down time be 8:45 to give yourselves a window to face the battle of handing it in.

Here are some additional questions to be clear on as a parenting team prior to making this move:

  • Know your “why”--Why is it important to you to shift into this at this time?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • What decisions/behavior are we seeing in our child that assures us that this is a safe risk to take right now?
  • If now is not the time, what would you need to see from your child or from your co-parenting team that can help you “get to yes”? For your child this might be increased consistency with school or having a healthy balance of activities they are engaged in.
  • What practice has your child already had, perhaps they have a flip phone for example, and has experience gone as smoothly as you would like?
  • Is there an alternative that is smart for your family to try first? For example, a smartphone with no internet access such as Gabb.
  • What rules need more practice to improve your family's rhythm and balance with screen use?
  • What are your strengths and struggles working through disagreements with each other now?
  • How parentable is your child - how responsive are they to reasonable parenting requests? For example, do they brush their teeth consistently with limited reminders? My line for my kids was that they would not get phones until they were brushing their teeth generally consistently without reminders because, if self-care is a struggle, it won’t get better with more access to a device. This does not need to be your line but it can be helpful to figure out what is.
  • Do you know the software that is out there to manage the screen time and at least some of the workarounds that your child will figure out?
  • Are you prepared to face the “but my friends have their phones all night” comment or “I’m 16 and should be able to figure it out by myself.” Check out our blog on managing your teen’s technology habits.
  • Is your child engaged in other things? Sometimes it can be more useful to make balanced engagement in other activities more of a priority than the dance of limiting screen time in the day; however, we recommend that if there is only 1 rule you are able to commit to it is that screens are out of rooms at night to preserve sleep.
  • Have you identified your rhythm and rules?
    1. You can have your phone once you are in the car on time for school
    2. Screen access ends at least 45 minutes before bed
    3. No phone during homework time (managing what they are doing on the computer can be challenging enough)
    4. Tracking software, if you will use this, needs to remain on
  • What role will you and your co-parent take on… what are you willing to do and how will you share the responsibility for managing this? Likely one of you tends toward more accountability and one of you tends toward leniency. This can become a problem and, while you might not change your tendencies, you need to be very clear with each other, prior to introducing smartphones and the rules that go with them, on how this will impact things.

This is a long list of questions that requires parents to take time to consider. This is an important decision that is better to not make lightly or impulsively because “all of my friends have one.”

For more help guiding your family through this and other situations that you want to have a thoughtful approach to,

please explore our website to learn more and connect.

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Solutions Parenting Support, LLC is a nationally recognized parent support and transition program assisting parents and families with straightforward and compassionate skills based support prior to, during and after wilderness therapy and/or residential treatment. Solutions is a dynamic team of parent coaches who have had extensive careers as therapists in wilderness therapy or residential treatment before turning their talents towards coaching parents around the globe. The team is family system focused and are licensed professional therapists and/or social workers each with 15-30 years of experience working in wilderness therapy programs, varying levels of residential treatment programming, and transitional support.

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