My kid doesn’t have an iPhone—yet.


Kickin’ it old school. 

In a few weeks I’ll be ready to trade in my old phone for an iPhone 5. When I do, my kids will get possession of my old 4s.

And by “my kids,” I mostly mean my 9-year-old daughter. Out of all my kids, she’s the one who already uses my iPhone the most. She loves to take pictures, make videos, and text her grandma. She looks up recipes, gardening tips, and random science factoids. (With lots of supervision, because that last part—the part about googling stuff on the internet—makes me nervous.)

My 11-year-old son uses my iPhone too, but only occasionally, mostly to check baseball scores, the weather, and playing word games.

I know lots of kids have their own iPhones these days, but I’m still getting used to it—and am still surprised at how many of our personal friends have given them to their 9- and 10-year-old kids for birthdays or Christmas.

My kids won’t get “ownership” of my old phone, exactly, but starting in a few weeks, it will be available to them more often than it is now. (With WiFi only—no data plan.)

Knowing this transition is coming, I’m trying to think a few steps ahead. I can already foresee two huge issues: adult content (I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean, right?) and total screen time.

I’m planning on following Kristen’s instructions to kid-proof the phone, ensuring they won’t be able to accidentally access adult content on it.

And I suspect we’re about to outgrow our screen time “system.” Right now it’s is dead simple: during daily rest time, they can watch a show or movie (usually 25-45 minutes in length) if they choose. If they want to use my iPhone for two minutes to take a picture, check baseball scores, or ask Siri a question, I usually say “yes” and hand it over.

So we need to kid-proof the phone and upgrade our screen time system, but I suspect that’s not all there is to it.

What’s your experience with kids and digital devices? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, rules, precautions, and all the other things I don’t even know I don’t know. 

P.S. Why we got a tv for our kids after 8 years without one, and cell phone etiquette basics.

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  1. Jennifer H says:

    We got our (almost) 11 year old an ipod (refurbished) touch at the end of the school year for having perfect attendance. This was a huge deal because he was missing a lot of school for “feeling” sick, but not actually “being” sick (as a mom, I tended to err on the side of caution and believe him when he said he was sick). Anyway, we bought it mostly for music and apps. I just asked him and he said he has never accessed the internet, but he knows how to do it, so I will follow the advice on restricting the browser. He also doesn’t text, but I have a feeling that will change once his friends get a hold of him. Screen time is still an issue we’re working through. I tried instituting an earning system, but it’s too hard for me to monitor. So right now, I’m using the distraction method. If I feel he’s had enough screen time, I just tell him to stop and let’s do something else. Sometimes, I give him a chore and sometimes I just do something with him (play a card game, take a walk, etc). It’s not perfect. I look forward to seeing other comments.

  2. Vicki says:

    My big thing about electronics, and this applies to all electronics not just a smart phone, is the use of them in public. It makes me sad when I take my kids out for some social time and the other kids are handed an electronic device by a parent and told to” share”. Suddenly all conversation ceases, all interaction is halted and the children are huddled around a small device staring. Sometimes a generous parent has a spare device to share with my kid which only sends each child into their own little world of digital entertainment when they could be building conversation skills and genuine friendships.

    • Anne says:

      Ugh, I don’t like the visual of a circle of kids all hunched over their phones! (I think it’s so interesting how reading a book or a magazine in public doesn’t shut out the world the way a digital device does. Not sure why this is so, but it definitely is.)

      • Vicki says:

        You know, a book or magazine doesn’t seem to bring out the same compulsive, controlling behaviors that an electronic device does. When was the last time you went to lunch with a girlfriend and had them whip out a book in the middle of your meal, dropping conversation, and immersing herself in a book instead of enjoying time at the table with friends. That just doesn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti technology – as I sit posting this from my own personal electronic tablet. It’s just one more thing we have to be cautious about keeping under control.

  3. Robin says:

    I have a son and daughter (twins) who just graduated. My daughter drives and has friends she texts, but she has an old flip phone and has only had that for about a year. She has an iPod with wifi. My son is a homebody (much like myself) so he is content with his laptop for communicating with friends. He’d rather text or email than talk on the phone anyway (again like me!). We will probably be getting them iPhones like ours in the fall, we like the find your friends ap for keeping track of them as they will be getting jobs and driving more. My 8 year old uses my phone for checking scores and stats and playing games. We are finding as we homeschool that the iPad is becoming central to school stuff!

    My techie husband has taken all the necessary steps to keep our Internet safe for kids! So grateful for that!

      • Robin says:

        Last year we used Khan Academy a lot for math, but it doesn’t work well in the ap, we used it through Safari. He loves Stack the States / Countries. We’ve played a bit with Duolingo, 123 World, and Tynker. I’m looking for a good chess app. But next year I’m switching to Ambleside Online and lots of those books are in public domain downloads and now on the iPad. I’m looking forward to the portability!

        A great homeschool mom app is Homeschool Helper.

        My two oldest I homeschooled K-12 and it was more school-at-home workbook stuff. With my youngest I want to relax and try something new. I can definitely see more technology based school for him and really that’s why I got my iPad at Christmas last year.

  4. EricaM says:

    I’m amazed at how adept some kids are with smartphones and the like, especially when I’m sitting here still figuring out my basic Kindle. I know a lot of people seem to think this is a sign of the deterioration of society, but they’ve said that about a lot of innovations. I think it’s good kids are learning young how to deal with new technology, since it’s so much a part of our lives now. Best they do that rather than turn out be a Luddite like me. 😛

    • Anne says:

      I was flabbergasted the first time my now-4yo got an iphone in his hands. He didn’t have nearly as much trouble figuring out what to do with it as I did the first time!

  5. Jenn says:

    I recently had a change of heart on this issue. I now agree with EricaM. Technology like this will be part of their lives and better to learn it young then struggle as they get older. Having said that I still limit the amount of time my 9yo gets to use screens. We gave her an old i-pod touch we had. She can play games, listen to music and i-message her grandparents and us (we all have i-phones). This has been a good in-between step for us. As in all things moderation is the key.

  6. None of my little children (age 10, 8, 6) have iphones or personal tablet devices, but they do share a Kindle Fire which has internet access. Our rule is 30 minutes per day earned after 30 minutes of reading. Once that is done, it’s done. Sometimes extra time is earned, especially if we are having a slow day where we’re not headed out somewhere.

    As a side note, all three have Nintendo DS’s but they aren’t interested enough in these to become addicted. They might grab it for a few minutes of play, but soon move on. We do not use devices in the car (unless the ride is longer than one hour) and never at meals. For the most part, the devices stay home.

    Our 14 and seventeen year olds have Android phones and use them almost constantly! They snapchat, instagram and read on and off all day. We have kept them free at meal times thus far, but it is an ongoing challenge.

  7. Tim says:

    Perhaps I’m merely an overly-permissive parent, but I confess that both my son and my daughter own iPhones. Then again, both my son and my daughter are in their 20s.

  8. Ann says:

    My biggest advice for your children is to make sure you stay connected to your friends in a real physical way. The iPod touches were great in the beginning—for games, taking pictures, quick internet searches etc. When their circle of friends started getting the same device and instant messaging, social media interest-problems did as well. Sadly, my kids have seen friendships fall apart with the help of new technology. It was tough on me to explain why someone won’t text to you back, or why you weren’t invited to something. Maybe these weren’t the real best of friends to begin with or maybe it’s me telling MYself that to take away this sting.

    Don’t get me wrong: I love technology. It has definitely been a learning curve for all of us when using it to communicate with others.

  9. Wendy says:

    Our older kids (now 15 and 17) have very archaic parents and didn’t get cell phones until they graduated from 8th grade *gasp*!!! They may have felt deprived, but I think it cut down on a lot of drama with the junior high set. When our second child graduated in June and received her cell phone, we revisited our entire technology use policy and had them sign this fantastic cell phone contract:
    (we revised it for language and added/changed things to meet our needs). We chose this “contract” because it was so lighthearted in tone (not so didactic as others) and included things like “recording memories in your mind, rather than on your phone” and “wondering, rather than ‘Googling'”.

    One of my favorite things (and one of the things they took issue with the most) that we require is that all devices must be connected to the family charging station by 9 pm–this cuts down on texting at all hours of the night, internet surfing w/out supervision, etc., etc.

    My 5 year old uses my iphone for playing games, visiting BrainPop, and watching preselected YouTube videos (however, after reading this, I’ll be taking that privilege away).

    We are also going to install Net Nanny on everyone’s devices.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion and great tips!

    • I feel like there’s something wrong with me, because I just don’t understand “wonder without googling.” No one says, “Wonder without using the dictionary” or “Wonder without using the encyclopedia”. Some things we’re not going to find answers to in life, but if you can get an answer to a question, why wouldn’t you? 🙂

      • Wendy says:

        Yes, that was my initial response to that one, too. I frequently look up answers to questions my kids have on Google, on my phone, at the dinner table, no less 🙁 . After thinking about it, though, what I like about that phrase is that, to me, it symbolizes slowing down and really thinking about something.

        Today, kids especially, but all of us really, are so conditioned to expect an immediate response or instant gratification. I’ve been trying in small ways to encourage my kids to slow down and reason things out in their own mind or “wonder” about things without expecting an immediate answer. I don’t want them to immediately fall apart when they can’t solve a problem or a puzzle; I want them to be confident in their ability to think things out and develop the mental strength and stamina that comes from slowing down. I hope their first instinct with everything isn’t just to Google it–but by all means, yes, get those questions answered! 🙂

  10. Pam says:

    Sarah at Memories on Clover Lane has an interesting post about technology rules for her family.

    It is great to read the comments, too.

    My daughter is 12 and has a basic phone. She keeps pushing for a smart phone but her contract isn’t up for a while yet. Many of her friends have smart phones but I don’t see the need to hop online when you are hanging out with friends.

  11. Susanna says:

    For most of their growing up years, my daughters had access to the desktop in our bedroom. They played a lot of computer games (Nancy Drew games were a favorite) and both got Facebook accounts when they were old enough (14). They did a lot in school with desktop computers and lap tops and each had an IPOD so I wasn’t too concerned with our relative lack of technology. When my oldest daughter was going into 11th grade, she was going to be in the International Baccalaureate program at her school and needed a lap top and at that point I felt pretty comfortable with no longer monitoring her computer use. She set it up and figured everything out on her own. Her sister (2 years younger) also got a laptop the summer before her junior year. Last summer, as a high school graduate about to enter college, our oldest daughter bought her own IPhone. What she had had before was a flip phone that she hardly ever used–just had it with her when she was driving and used it if she needed to contact someone. Now she does everything on her phone (e-mail, texting, banking, and didn’t have a bit of trouble figuring it out at 18 rather than 8). My youngest daughter has a flip phone now and I have no plans to buy her an IPhone–I’m sure she’ll want one soon, but she’ll have to pay for it herself.

    I think not having the ability to text (although at some point in high school they both had texting apps on their IPods) saved a lot of drama and not having phones to play with forced them to engage their parents and others and just the world! It’s easier to go outside and hit the tennis ball back and forth if you don’t even have the option of being tied down to an electronic device. I remember one time going to a choir trip meeting with my daughter when she was about 16. We arrived a little early and the parent/teenager who were in front of us were both looking at their phones. A little later another parent/teenager pair came in and sat behind us. Out came the phones. I felt sorry for my daughter and myself–since we both had boring flip phones, we only had each other to talk to.

  12. Vanessa says:

    It’s alarming to me how polarizing this subject is. I don’t worry about it that much. Screens/technology/smartphones = all part of the world we live in. I’m as nostalgic as the next person for a time before constantly being plugged in, but it’s just not our reality anymore. I think if you teach your kids the basics of manners and “a time for everything,” the rest will sort itself out.

    One idea for monitoring “screen time” would be that you have a landing place (front table?) where everyone puts their phones when they come home. No phone use in rooms. Only in the family area, always with an adult present.

  13. melyssa says:

    Unfortunately, parental controls and things like net nanny, etc, aren’t going to catch everything. There are apps out there (and usually free) that are specifically designed to do things like immediately delete your texting history after three minutes (similar to snapchat) in order to keep your parents in the dark. One is called Poof. Another is Kik. These professional designers coming up with these things are much more technologically advanced than I am and their whole job is to undermine parental authority (or maybe cheating spouses, too, not sure). Sadly, our kids are usually more advanced than we are in the electronic world, too. So, even though I am a control freak, and I want to monitor and I want their passwords and I want their history, the real heart of the matter is the real heart of the matter. If I have a sneaking suspicion about something going on online with my kids, then I have to buckle down and have some conversation with them about it – no matter how embarrassing it gets. We’ve “put precautions in place,” and we’ve even programmed our internet to automatically shut off each night at a certain time, but you know what? They could (if they so chose) just access the neighbor’s. I guess my point is, there is no easy button. We have to keep encouraging them to talk to us.

  14. Jackie H says:

    Having just finished the book “Alone Together” by Sherry Turkle, I’m a bit concerned about the road that being almost always ‘connected’ via smartphones/internet is taking us. There is so much in the book and I don’t want to give it all away but it’s talking about how smartphones can degrade relationships, reduce attentions spans and more. Not only is it not making us more connected, it can erode the connections that we already have since we can always ‘be somewhere else’. I kinda agree with this guy a lot: Just my 2 cents. 🙂

  15. melyssa says:

    Sorry, me again! As a ballet teacher, I find phones frustrating. We have an open studio (a pain in the derriere for me, but great for parents to watch their kiddos). But these same parents who insist on being a part of their kid’s classes just text and play Candy Crush the whole time. I can’t even tell you how many little girls will say, “mom! mom! look!” or “why isn’t daddy watching me…?” It’s irritating. Sometimes we will have a dozen parents, plus a dozen siblings, all lined up, EVERY ONE ON THEIR PHONES AND TABLETS. Ok, ok, we don’t have to be utterly obsessed with each and every of Sally’s pirouettes, but come on. At least pretend to be interested! Just one reason I am stubbornly hanging on to my dumb, horribly inefficient cell phone. If I CAN’T check Facebook whenever I want then I can’t … and if it won’t connect to email, I have to wait until I get home. These aren’t bad things! Because I’m just as susceptible as everyone else … and I know I’d soon be one of those parents, texting and gaming instead of being present.

  16. Ashley says:

    We use the idea of “abundance” to help naturally limit it and the whining for screen time. Read it on a blog and now I can’t remember which one!

    Basically, no screen time at all for most of the day, but as much as they like after dinner and homework are done, until the bedtime routine begins. They know they’ll get lots of time if they want and so don’t ask or beg as much during other times + as often as not they choose to do something else. No stress about missing out because it’ll still be available tomorrow! Oh, and none of them have their own devices, we have a couple family iPads that we all share.

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