We live in a time where technology is ever-changing. While these technology developments have many positives, they also pose some interesting challenges with the newest generation. The days of rotary phones are long gone and land-lines are quickly becoming a thing of the past. I spend so much of my time counseling families on the benefits of limiting screen time for children, but the reality is that children do need to spend time learning how to use technology appropriately.
One of these important ways is phone usage and safety. Children used to spend time memorizing phone numbers of important family members but that has slipped by the wayside with automatic contact dial. Still it is important that children understand how to use a phone to call for help if needed. I recommend spending time with children from ages 4 on up to make sure they are familiar with how to get into your phone’s keypad as well as how to call emergency services if necessary. Most children these days are very technology savvy so it only takes a little reinforcement to get these concepts across. See the tips below for talking to and teaching your kids about phone safety.
- This is not an exercise that is designed to scare them so be sure to use age appropriate language such as: Do you know how to call mom, dad, etc if you need help or someone else needs help? Have you heard about 9-1-1? What are some times someone might need to call 9-1-1.
- Walk them through getting to the keypad on your device. Have them practicing dialing from the keypad.
- Post important numbers outside of your phone. In an emergency they may need to use someone else’s phone and it is important to know who to call and where those numbers are located.
- Many smartphones have an emergency dial setting, show them how they can get into this in case your phone is locked and you do not wish to share phone passwords with them.
- It is important to reinforce these habits so be sure to have this conversation and walk through the phone usage with them more than one time.
The question of when a child should get their own device is another common topic of discussion I hear in my practice. The answer is going to differ from family to family. It is appropriate to get your child a phone if they will be walking to or from school alone or if there are other times they will need to be on their own and you need an avenue to contact them. It is important that the device they use be set up with phone service and not just internet in the case that there is an internet issue and they are unable to connect. There are many devices that are geared towards children with this in mind. You can talk to your phone carrier about what choices they offer. There are also many ways to monitor their usage and set parental controls if they will be using the device for apps and internet as well. It is important to discuss safety with apps like Instagram, Snap Chat, and twitter. Children often have a difficult time understanding that anything they do online could be targeted. Make sure they understand not to post personal information such as full name, name of school, address, or phone number in any public setting. This is also important when posting picture outside of these locations.
If you have other questions about phone safety or would like to schedule an appointment to discuss integrative pediatric care for your child, please contact our clinic: