Ask Titania: How Do I Walk Back My Kid’s Tech Use?
I recently decided to give my 11-year-old son an iPhone. It’s his first phone, and he’s of course thrilled with it, but I think I made a mistake. He hasn’t done anything explicitly wrong yet, but the screen time controls don’t work great and I’m worried he’s going to eventually get in over his head. There’s a lot to take in and it’s too much for him, I think. I also think I need more oversight into everything, in general. Is it okay to walk everything back? And even more importantly, how do I do it?
Trying to Put the Tech Toothpaste Back in the Tube
Dear Trying to Put the Tech Toothpaste Back in the Tube
Boy, do I feel you! And not only that, I imagine countless other parents across the entire world feel the same way. iPhones are one of the most popular phones ever created, so it’s only natural to have thought that the phones we use would be just as good for our kids.
We were all wrong. Here’s an analogy that I think illustrates the point. Our society doesn’t always think of kids first when it comes to technology. Cars were invented in 1886. Guess when car seats for children came along?
Not until 1962.
What this means is that until only recently, the idea of a cell phone for kids just didn’t exist. Fortunately, things are different now — kids’ phones are a growing market, and the Bark Phone is leading the pack.
Kids Aren’t Just Little Adults
Our iPhones rule our lives as grownups, and we use them to communicate, work, relax, and stay informed about the world. Our brains are fully developed, though, and we’re not learning how to interact with the world for the first time.
Kids, on the other hand, are the exact opposite! Their reward centers are more vulnerable to addicting games and notifications. Their hand-eye coordination is still developing. Their sense of self-worth and belonging is still embryonic. Giving a child a phone with no boundaries — and by extension, the internet, social media, and the horrible things that being online presents — is like giving them a weapon. As parents, it’s our job to help them grow up safely and ready for the challenges of being an adult on planet Earth. Nowadays, that means teaching them to use technology in a slow process that gradually adds in features, not all at once.
iPhones Aren’t Built for Children
Can kids use iPhones just fine? Of course, they probably know more about them than we do. Do kids absolutely love iPhones? A truer statement has never, ever been uttered. But kids also would love cake for dinner every night.
iPhones are made for adults, and any of the parental controls that exist on them right now were added as afterthoughts. They’re buggy, and not terribly comprehensive. And the ethos that guides Apple’s products (privacy) doesn’t exactly translate well for an 11-year-old, who doesn’t need privacy so much as support and guardrails.
How to Talk to Your Son
I’ll give it to you straight: going backward is going to be a challenge – but not impossible. Here are a few conversation starters to help you out:
Start with your concerns
When you sit down with your son, start with what you’re worried about. Say, “I know we started with an iPhone, but I think we need something different. Remember when you got training wheels for your bike?” We also recommend watching Childhood 2.0, a documentary that features actual kids and parents and the issues technology presents to them today.
Remind him that iPhones are always going to be there
Your son isn’t going to have a kid’s phone forever. In fact, for the vast, vast majority of his life he won’t have anything but an iPhone, if that’s what he wants. But during this critical time in his adolescence, it’s the best option for him and you.
Stress that it’s not about him, it’s about other people
No matter how good of a kid is or how trustworthy he is, there is still the potential for danger from strangers and even other kids. Ask, “Have you ever seen something that made you uncomfortable online?” Odds are, he’ll say yes. Talk about how you want to be there as a safety net, in case something happens that he may not recognize or know how to handle.
Why the Bark Phone Is Your #1 Best Option
To begin with, the Bark Phone was built by a team of parents — who listened to other parents’ feedback about what they needed — from the ground up with children in mind.
The result is a device that puts parents 100% in the driver's seat when it comes to managing their child’s online experience. Our $29/month starter plan comes locked down with no apps, games, or social media for a safer first-phone experience.
As your child gets older, all you have to do is head to the parent dashboard to unlock more features as your kid matures, things like web browsers and school apps. At the heart of everything the Bark Phone does, however, is our advanced content monitoring, and why I think your decision to walk back from the iPhone is such a good one.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and this is where Bark helps parents so, so much. If your child is texting a friend about feeling suicidal, you’ll get an alert. If someone sends him an inappropriate picture, you’ll get an alert.
Bark won’t let you see everything on your kid’s phone, but it does highlight things you should probably know about. And that peace of mind is priceless. Good luck!
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.