4 tips for parents of the smartphone generation

Nancy Nunziati 9 Feb 2018

Keep your kids safe and healthy with these digital world life lessons.

Today’s children are known as “digital natives.” That is, they were born into a world where “phone” is short for “smartphone,” not “telephone,” and staring at screens is more necessity than luxury. But at what saturation point does phone usage get unhealthy? How much is too much?  

Moreover, who is responsible for determining safe and healthy guidelines regarding phone usage, particularly for children? Teachers? Doctors? Parents? Should it be considered a matter of public health? In time, we as a society will develop learned “best practices” for screen time usage; but in these early days, safety begins by teaching our children well.

The unfortunate truth is that phone addiction is a real problem. This topic has been in the news lately, as one of the original iPhone designers admitted the device was designed to be addictive, and one of the founders of Facebook admitted the same about the social media site.

According to a survey conducted by Common Sense Media, 59% of the parents surveyed believe their teenage kids are addicted to their phones, and 50% of the teens themselves admit they are in fact addicted. Over 70% of them feel the need to immediately respond to texts and messages.  

As with everything when it comes to raising kids, we teach best by example. Make sure you are practicing the phone habits that you’d like your children to practice, because they will follow your example. Here are four basic tips to keep you and your family in a healthy balance with your digital lives.

1. Set rules

Teach that there are moments too sacred even for phones, such as around the dinner table. As parents, we now need to put a firmer emphasis on the value of in-person human connection. Too much time spent in the digital world can cause loneliness, and our children need to be taught it’s no substitute for the real world.

2. Set limits

It’s easy to get lost in hours of social media. Make your family aware of how much time they are spending on their phones by setting limits. You can purchase third-party family management software, but most mobile providers offer parental controls that can make it easy to block unsafe sites, limit minutes and data usage, limit number of texts, block certain phone numbers, block windows of time to allow or monitor or prohibit internet use, and much more.

3. Educate about addiction

Share this article and others with your children, as well as the linked articles in this post, and talk about the issue of phone addiction. Explain why it’s a concern these days. Keeping your children open regarding their digital lives and teaching a responsibility regarding phone time will keep you in tune with their viewpoints and concerns.

4. Teach proper netiquette

Basic netiquette (aka internet etiquette) needs to be taught, just as table manners do. Talk to your children about being respectful to others online, and why bullying in cyberspace is never okay. Also advise them how to be safe: avoid chatting with strangers, beware of clicking on unknown files, and always look closely at any file they consider downloading.

It’s our mission at Avast to protect and defend your digital life. We take pride in protecting over 400 million users around the globe, and we continually enhance our technology to stay ahead of the latest cyber threats. We believe everyone has a right to stay safe online … and that begins by staying sane online. As the new year starts to find its stride, let’s all commit to safer, saner phone usage.

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