Screen Time for Kids: Danger, Guidelines and Common-Sense Rules

When should I give my child a phone?

“Choosing when to give kids their own devices or phones is a very individual decision, but if you can wait, it’s often a good idea,” Filucci says. “The older kids are when they get their first phones, the less management you’ll have to do to make sure they’re being responsible. Also, when kids are more mature, they’ll make fewer mistakes and be better able to understand the consequences of their behavior.”

Dr. Hill and the Google team agrees that there is no one “prescribed age” for devices; it is more about why the child wants it and how equipped they are to manage it. “This is a very individual answer but one that I think families really need to look at mindfully,” Dr. Hill says.

Now that my child has a phone, should I be tracking her usage?

“How do you keep your teenager safe once they own a mobile device and how you enforce the rules around it?” Dr. Hill asks, noting that though there are plenty of tech-based solutions, nothing beats a face-to-face discussion with your child. “It’s a fairly lousy idea to put on some secret screen monitoring app, because when you find a thing that concerns you, now what are you going to do? When are you going to break the glass and say, “Oh, we knew that you were visiting this site that we didn’t want you to and we didn’t tell you until now.” Now you’ve got no trust.

Much better is to start with a conversation with your child before you introduce the device about what your expectations are and how to be safe. I think they’ll often find that with the child’s involvement they are able to come up with a plan that everybody can be happy with and agree to.”

Filucci echoes Dr. Hill’s sentiments, and recommends coming from a place of trust and responsibility – while still keeping dialogue open all the time. “You could try giving kids a total allotment of screen time in a week and letting them figure out how they want to spend that time. As kids start choosing more content on their own, you should make sure to discuss with them what type of content is off limits and what requires a conversation first.”

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