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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Help – My Girl’s About to Get Her First Smartphone!

By Stacey Ross

I was under such duress recently, not being able to locate my girl for an hour during her school carnival. The adrenalin rush that kicked in could have powered the school, I tell ya! Once I saw she was safe and had just become camouflaged by the climbing wall, I decided to exhale and grab myself a couple of tacos.

I was reminded about the peace of mind I am going to have when my girl is empowered with her first phone. Of course, one with a simple phone plan, with texting and age-appropriate restrictions. Baby steps!

But yet, I still hesitate before buying the phone. Before I make a purchase, I always pause to ask myself why I am doing it. I am caving in to social pressures so my girl can have a shiny gadget to flaunt? Or is it something that will benefit the whole family?

I want her to embrace her privileges with an understanding that this is yet another responsibility that she will need to be accountable for, and sometimes I think hesitating is a smart move.

The online jungle

When I talk with other parents, one of the concerns that inevitably comes up is the negative influence of technology. Smartphones in particular seem to bear the brunt of a lot of blame (or concern) about premature exposure to the online jungle!

We read about how kids are engaging in online relationships perhaps more than they do face-to-face conversations; we find them exposed to some form of screen entertainment for extended periods of time; we know they are put at risk safety-wise if they are not well-supervised; and we also seem to live in a culture that pressures young children to compete and indulge in risky behavior, encouraging shallowness and superficiality.

So there-in lies my hesitation, but like anything else worthwhile, the benefits will outweigh the risks, especially if I go into this with eyes wide open.

Some influencers believe that providing kids with smartphones, video games, Internet time, social media outlets, etc. are aiding in the demise of civilization as we know it (an exaggeration maybe, but there are some hard core folks out there), while others let their kids have free range (seen it oh so many times). But most of us are just trying to find that comfortable middle ground, where our kids can grow and thrive.

Doing my homework as a parent

The answer lies in doing some homework and providing kids with access to age-appropriate content, web sites, apps and resources, along with educating them on what is inappropriate.

Before I take the plunge (and I am not rushing!) and give my girl her top-of-the-wish-list item, I need to invest some time on a little research. And whatya know? My search took me to The Online Mom's very own tips, which include:

  • Create a family agreement and guidelines (trust relationship)
  • Install parent controls    
  • Address safety issues and emergency protocol
  • Establish a responsibility factor
  • Maintain good online habits

May the force be with me, and with you too!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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