A Parents Guide to Kids & iPhones

This was inspired by TodaysMama and her post, "THE WORST APPS FOR KIDS".  Well worth the read and she accurately assesses the potentially harmful side effects of seemingly innocuous apps. 

I don't disagree with her assessment of the apps but what I will address is her strategy. Whack-A-Mole is not a winning strategy and by going after the app that is what you end up doing. A better strategy is holistic and requires parents to get at the roots of the problem: opportunity and human nature.

Here are what I consider the minimum rules you should have if you are welcoming a connected smart device into the home be it Droid, tablet, pc, Mac or in this example an iPhone. 

Rules for the Child - 
1) Your parent OWNs the phone and you the child are allowed to USE the phone within limits set by parent.

2) There is no right to privacy - that's just on tv . Privacy is a privilege child earns over time. This means parent can read your texts but probably won't because they aren't that interesting.

3) Child is not to password protect the phone, tablet, pc or app unless the password is approved and known by parent. 

4) The phone spends the night charging in parents room or designated public area.

5) The phone is not out and in your hand when any adult is speaking to you. Adults are not your friends and they 'don't get it' but they do want your attention.

6) No phones at the meal table - home or away.

7) You break, you buy. If parent bought insurance you can get a new phone for about $80-100. A decent case is $20-30 and prudence is free.

8) You will share your location with parent. It is an iOS8 option, there are also apps and parent WILL know your iCloud login and password so they can always use Find My iPhone. (So handy. You have no idea.)

9) Got an Insta? Facebook? SnapChat? Parent does too and you will be 'friends'.  It's not that we don't trust you it's just that you don't know any better.  And don't think we don't know about that other account you have.

Rules for Parents:
1) Welcome to IT, you will hate working here.

2) Set clear limits for use of technology: time limits, data limits, content limits, social limits and enforce them, enforce them, enforce them, enforce them....

3) Log in to your carrier's site or visit store. Figure out how to impose safety limits on the phone. Phone & text are mostly unlimited now but you can usually limit how much data they get -I give 1gb. Limit the time of day the phone can receive calls & texts because you will be shocked how many they get between 11PM and 6AM.  (You can add your phone and others as exception so that you can always reach child and child can always reach you.)

This next one is CRUCIAL & FREE!!   As long as child is accessing internet over your wifi - and they will prefer to do so to preserve their now limited data - you will have control over what they access.  This limits opportunity in the face of human nature.

4) Visit OpenDNS and get it working on your home network. It is free and easy for a geek but will take some patience and persistence from a non-geek. This will eliminate 90% of all the stuff you don't want on your entire home network: porn, violence, guns, tobacco, alcohol, chat rooms, etc. It is customizable and extensive and again, FREE! Single greatest IT discovery of my life.
(There is a paid product available here called Umbrella. You install it on a phone and it makes sure that even when not on your home network, the filters you put in place are applied. Upkeep was tricky so I dropped it but I am revisiting the issue right now.)

5) As the article suggests - go to Settings and set parental controls with a password. Consider limiting the volume of the headphones. You can do that. 

6) Enforce, Enforce, Enforce and Accept, Accept, Accept. They are kids, they are curious, they are creative and they will figure out ways to get around your limits. They will call themselves hotbeachbabe96 when they are 12 and anything but. They will search naked dancing girls because that sounds crazy and interesting and that kid at school told them about how to do it. They will stream porn. Yep. I know that mom's don't like to think of their sons this way. Trust me. I would have and they will.  I'm just as sure your daughter will take selfies that you immediately want her to take down. It's all part of the process and we need to accept it, forgive kids that make mistakes, teach them better and move on.

This really heightens anticipation for the empty nest.

Good luck.