In the digital age, many parents are struggling with when a child is ready for a cell phone and how much time they should spend on screens.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and AT&T are launching tools to help families decide if kids are ready for a phone and help create safe, responsible media and technology use. Dr. Jenny Radesky, assistant professor of Pediatrics at University of Michigan Medical School, says, “People have used parent controls and other sort of monitoring technology, but that’s not the only answer. A lot of it’s going to be about saying to your kids, hey, show me your digital world, show me what games you play or what YouTubers you follow and have healthy conversations.”
To gauge if the family is in the “Ready Zone” or not, there is a questionnaire that asks things like, does your child keep track of their things and whether you trust their judgment when you aren’t there.
Parents can also build a customized media plan for the whole family. “What boundaries do you want to set around technology so kids can have healthy sleep, they can have undistracted homework time. Whatever is important to your family. Controlling tech and enjoying it, not feeling controlled by it,” Dr. Radesky says.
Bennett Cox is busy with sports, so he hasn’t been on his iPad much this summer. “I mostly play games because I can friend all my friends and then we can play together.”
His mom Lezlie has been thinking about getting the 11-year-old a cell phone. “I’m a little nervous with social media, cyberbullying, things like that. But he’s in a lot of sports and over at friend’s houses, and it might be easier for us to make plans if he had one,” she says.
Bennett thinks he’s responsible enough for a cell phone. “I tell my mom if I’m watching something that’s not good, because sometimes it just pops up.”
Lezlie says it’s best when kids can just be kids without screens. “The kids should be out playing not sitting at home on the iPads or, you know, doing social media stuff,” she says.