If you’ve spent any length of time around a kid between the ages of about 8 – 17, you know as well as I do that they are practically attached to their phone (or iPod) 24 hours a day. Clear cell phone rules for kids are essential to keeping this at a minimum.
CNN recently ran a story about cell phone addiction that said it all:
“Fifty percent of teens feel they are attached to their mobile devices, according to the poll, which was conducted for Common Sense Media a nonprofit focused on helping children, parents, teachers, and policymakers negotiate media and technology. A large number of parents, 59%, said their teens were addicted. The poll involved 1,240 interviews with parents and their children, ages 12 to 18.” (source)
Reading things like this is part of the reason kiddo, now 13, doesn’t have a cell. Is there really a thing such as technology addiction? I don’t know but even when we get her an actual cell phone, it’ll probably be a dumb phone that only calls & texts to be safe.
As her parents, we do our best to model cell moderation around her but even we aren’t immune to the pull of the vast internet.
Device or cell phone rules for kids
Kiddo does, however, have an iPod. We’ve set up strict guidelines around its use to lessen the chance of her starting to depend on it or anything inappropriate happening.
- The iPod never goes behind a closed door or in her bedroom.
- She can only text or Facetime with people she knows face-to-face.
- She is not permitted to change her passcode or any passwords. There is no such thing as a right to digital privacy while she is a child. We go through it freely and often.
- Playing on her iPod counts as screen time, which she must earn over the summer and is quite limited during the school year.
- If she loses or breaks it, tough cookies, she’ll need to find a way to pay for another one. Same for if she doesn’t monitor it and it gets stolen.
- Her school encourages that kids bring their devices to school for classroom activities but the administration doesn’t allow any texting during school hours. If they take it away because she doesn’t follow the rules, it’s gone.
- The parental controls stay on, no question. She can’t download any app, song, movie, etc… without one of us putting our password in.
Might as well be learning, right?
One of the cool things we’ve found recently and put on her iPod is the TOPs Balance App. We figured if she’s going to be on her iPod throughout the day, she may as well be learning something. I think we’re going to make this rule #8- use it.
TOPs Balance is a fantastic little app that you install on your kid’s device from the App Store or Google Play Store for a couple bucks, $4.99 regularly but on promo now at $2.99, and it provides what TOPs Balance calls a 10-second Knowledge Burst each time she opens her device. I set it up on my phone the other day to take some screenshots:
I like it because the facts are grade specific depending on the age of the child and there’s an option each time it launches to learn more facts to earn points. Points enter her in a drawing for some pretty sweet prizes so that actually gets her excited to learn more.
We’ve tried both modes that the TOPs Balance App offers: low-intensity & high-intensity. I love that the intensity can be changed at any time.
The low-intensity mode is an optional delivery method which shows up as a prompt on her lock screen. Kiddo can choose to swipe the prompt to open right into the app and get her facts before going on to do whatever she was going to do.
The high-intensity mode is a mandatory delivery method. It requires a 10-second Knowledge Burst when she unlocks her iPod prior to showing her home screen. She can bypass it but the penalty for doing so is that her most used apps automatically disappear for a short time. Brilliant.
We chose the mandatory delivery method and it’s working beautifully.
The facts are pretty interesting as well, even I learned something: Did you know that sand boarding is a thing and it originated in Egypt? Ya, me neither.