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Using smartphones to build responsibility

Although buying your child a camera-equipped, web-enabled smartphone presents some risks, there are also opportunities. One of the more positive aspects of owning a smartphone is that it can teach responsibility. And that doesn’t just mean not losing or breaking the phone. Instead, phone ownership can be used to encourage a more responsible approach in many other areas of your child’s life. Here are 4 examples:

1. Create a way to share in the cost of the smartphone

It could be putting up part of a weekly allowance or taking a bigger share of the household chores. Whatever the contribution, it’s a good discipline for your new smartphone owner to share in the incremental cost of the device.

With most family plans, it’s very easy to identify how much each device costs. Make sure your young smartphone owner knows what that cost is, so he or she can feel pride in making a contribution.

2. Motivate your child with expanded phone privileges

A great way to build smartphone responsibility is to start out with a tight set of usage rules and then gradually relax those rules as your child demonstrates good phone behavior and earns your trust.

For example, you can set times of day when your child can text or access data and then expand those times on weekends and holidays. Or you can set an allowance for content purchases, such as ringtones, games and other downloads, and gradually increase that allowance every quarter.

Whatever method you choose, make sure your child understands the rules and the consequences for not following them. Above all, be consistent – don’t grant privileges if behavior targets haven’t been met.

3. Use the smartphone as a teaching tool

Wherever possible, show your child that a smartphone is more than just a texting device or a way to access Facebook. If your child’s phone has a data plan or is part of a shared plan, encourage your child to use the phone to answer questions or research places that you are visiting. Download fun and safe apps, so they can see the amazing potential of mobile devices: use bar code readers while shopping; look up recipes while cooking together; name the constellations using night sky apps. If your child sees her smartphone as more than a communication tool, then it will have more value and be treated in a more responsible way.

4. Make your child responsible for phone maintenance

That means your child knows where the charger is at all times and finds a place to plug it in at night. Have your child pick out a phone case and make sure that the phone itself is treated carefully and not dropped. Make sure your child doesn’t have a habit of putting the phone down in restaurants or leaving it at friends’ houses. Make sure the phone is out of harm’s way if food is dropped or drinks are knocked over.

Developing a thoughtful smartphone owner will pay immediate dividends and spill over into other tech areas, including computer use and social networking. Let smartphones lead the way in developing responsible digital citizens!

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