Should I get my kids a phone? I have been thinking about it. In the past couple of days I have been talking to parents on and offline about their kids, online safety and phones. What sparked started me to start these conversations was a recent invite from Verizon to listen to Stephan Balkam.
Stephen is the CEO of Family Online Safety Institute. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. He came to talk to parents about online safety. And I realized for the first time that all these parents were struggling with the same thing that I am currently at the cross with – online safety and phones for are kids.
I don’t think many parents are talking to each other to discuss how they are struggling and what ways they are tackling the issues of this complex topic. And I am not sure why were aren’t discussing it with each other.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about apps that monitor social media when Momo happened March/April. There were tons of conversation warning parents but months later I see parents still struggling at this meeting with FOSI.
I know for Andy & I, our kids are at the crossroads of whether we need to get Tyler & Victoria a cell phone. First there are some financial ones – they aren’t responsible to handle $750-1000 phone. I am still reminding them daily about where their $100 FitAce or pair of eyeglasses. We can overcome that caveat and maybe get a flip phone. Yes a flip phone! Or maybe phone no more than $200 if possible.
Our second and complex issue is the safety of the internet and all the exposure of the big bad internet – the predators, the drama, cyberbullying, non-age appropriate apps. They play some games on phones like Pokemon & Minecraft. This one is a difficult one to tackle. There are apps that I can get (paid and free) that will help but not to the degree of safety I am seeking. They mostly just monitor apps and I need more than just apps.
I learned Verizon has app that goes beyond what apps are offering currently.
Verizon Smart Family is an app that gives you parental controls to help manage your kids’ smartphone use. The app costs $10 a month and it let’s the parent phones track the child phones. The app features real time tracking, monitoring of calls, texts, ability for parents to limit and monitor internet usage, etc.
From a single app (works with smartphones only, no flip phones), you’ll be able to:
- Use content filtering
- Limit and monitor calls, texts and purchases
- Monitor web and app activity
- Pause the internet
- Use location tracking and check-in features (Verizon Smart Family Premium)
Then you have Just Kids. Just Kids is the name of the unlimited plan that your child’s line can be on. Included in Just Kids is the Smart Family app (without the $10/month).
There’s also Just Kids. It’s the plan that’s made with your kids in mind. They get 5 GB of data, you get simple parental controls to monitor their data usage and keep tabs on who they’re talking to. You can choose contacts, control what your kid sees on their device, track their device’s location, limit data usage and more right from the My Verizon and My Verizon Smart Family apps. Just pair the Parent device with your kid’s device using the Smart Family companion app and you’re ready to get started.
I think right now – knowing our kids and our family situation. I am feeling the parental pressure to get our kids phones. Andy not so much. But right now, we have collectively decided we are holding off. We are considering the wait to 8th. I did enjoy what FOSI 7 steps to good digital parenting. We are talking to our kids and being open and direct and trying to stay calm (tweens here so those who may know the struggle). We are setting parental controls on the devices they do have access to in our home and they have those at school for them too. Working on setting ground rules and enforcing consequences and these will probably change as they get older. And trying to be a good digital role model. As a blogger, these can be hard but always explaining and having those conversations on why we will be on our phones but also trying to be more mindful that we too need a unplug.
Also, I look forward to the Verizon and how they are really trying to tackle helping parents with online safety for families, so when we get my kids a phone we will have peace of mind. Technology is always changing and family dynamic is much different than what I grew up with. So, I am curious – does your kid have a phone? What age did you get them their phone and for any reason? Any reason why you aren’t getting your kid a phone currently? Have you heard of FOSI or wait til 8th?