Has a child in your life asked for a smartphone for Christmas?
Experts say it’s good to set ground rules before you hand over that iPhone to a kid.
Bark Technologies, an Atlanta company, offers a smartphone app and subscription service ($9 a month for families, free to schools) that is helping to protect 4 million children in the United States, according to the company.
Here are three quick tips from Bark about managing your child’s mobile phone use:
1. Caution children on sending or posting images/videos online.
2. Know who your child is talking to online.
3. Make sure your kids choose non-identifying screen names.
This is wonderful information.
But after reading the tips from Bark, I decided to come up with my own informal, nonscientific tips based on being a dad of two teenagers. Incidentally, no algorithms were harmed in the preparation of this list.
So, here goes:
1. Don’t let your kids get online and browse tattoo designs. Young adults collect tattoos like baby boomers collect Christmas ornaments at Dollywood.
2. Demand your kids turn their phones off “silent” when they’re home from school. Otherwise, when the phone gets lost in your house, you can’t make it ring. This leads to long searches and irrational thoughts, like, “Dang, can a 15-pound poodle swallow an iPhone SE?”
3. Never, ever allow your child access to your camera roll. They will delete every goofy photo you’ve ever taken of them, making them nearly impervious to parental blackmail. A time will come when you need this leverage — like when you want naming rights to your first grandchild.
4. Make sure when setting up your phones that your family’s numbers don’t get crossed up. This happens. I have been accidentally Facetimed in business meetings by 12-year-olds — buddies of my younger son — exhorting me to “play Minecraft, Bro!” This does not raise your status at work.
5. When your headphone-wearing child is watching funny videos on YouTube, do not interrupt them by asking dorkily, “What’s so funny?” Find your own funny videos. For my boomer buddies, I recommend Tim Conway doing “The Dentist” skit on the old “Carol Burnett Show.” You will laugh so hard that you’ll spit your dentures across the room.
6. Learn how to activate and deactivate the flashlight on your own cellphone. Nothing screams “OK, Boomer” like a phone flashlight shining through the pocket of pleated, khaki pants.
7. Write down important phone numbers on a Post-it Note and hide it in your child’s backpack. Should your child lose his or her phone, there is virtually zero chance they have mom’s and dad’s phone numbers memorized. To protect your identity, label dad’s number “FBI Surveillance Van” and mom’s number “Identity Theft Hotline.”
8. Get one of those tracking apps that allows you to pinpoint your child’s location. If they protest, tell them to “get lost” — which is nearly impossible now that you have them on a digital leash.
9. Show them your phone bill. Most kids think that mobile phone service is free. Also set a date by which you wish them to become phone independent — i.e., no longer on your family mobile phone plan. For guidance, the median age for phone independence in the United States is now age 48 or death of the parent, whichever comes first.
10. Insist that your child get the most rugged, drop-resistant case you can buy. If my kid gets a new, $700 iPhone, I want it in a shatter- proof case — with air bags.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645.