MODERN PARENTING: Your Child Doesn’t Need A Smartphone. And You Don’t Need Them To Have One.

Modern Parenting
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August 24, 2017
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Jeff from Chicago

This week in our modern parenting series, we’re hearing from working mom of two, Blagica Bottigliero. Blagica owns her own digital marketing and social media consultancy so she knows a bit about trying to juggle work life with kids. Despite the fact that she’s been in the technology industry for most of her career, she has strong beliefs on how she’ll expose her own kids to tech.

It seems that these days kids are asking for, and receiving smartphones earlier and earlier. There could be many reasons for this trend including pressure from kids or parents desire to check in more frequently. Whatever it is, are we really wanting to give our young kids a smartphone with unlimited access to the Internet? There’s probably parents who could argue both ways. Blagica for one plans to hold out as long as possible and she she has some advice for parents on how to go about this.

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Your Child Doesn’t Need A Smartphone. And You Don’t Need Them To Have One.

Ah, yes. It’s back.

-School schedules.

-Institute day schedules.

-Sports practices and game schedules.

-PTO schedules.

-Band practice schedules.

...shall I go on?

I’ve always loved school. I also love routine and updating my daily calendar with events and activities by the minute. Yes, I’m one of those wall calendar people. Like many dual working parents, a shared family calendar makes everyone sane.

With the increase of activities happening year ‘round, it isn’t always possible for my husband and me to conduct every single pickup and drop off task. And since my kids are both under eight and not ready to travel from place to place on their own, we need to rely on a carpool schedule.

For those of you who have kids in middle and high school, a cell phone is your main connection to what your kids are up to.

As someone who worked IN the mobile phone industry, I know how important this tool can be from a global connection standpoint, but also learning and making life better for millions. I also feel that a child having a cell phone comes with great responsibility. Parents often ask me how they can control their kid’s cell phone use.  How can they get their child to unplug at night? If taking the cell phone away is the best option for punishment, are they pushing their child away? What if my kid demands a smartphone at an early age?I have some tips.

Ask your child what they want to do with their cell phone

My seven-year old daughter assumes that she will join other kids and get a smartphone at 13. As of today, I don’t plan on granting her wish. I asked my daughter about why she wanted a smartphone and why she thought she needed it.

Turns out, my daughter didn’t know why she wanted a smartphone.  When I explained that she could look fun facts, stories and podcasts up at home using multiple other devices, along with my phone, this seemed to quench her curiosity.

Set expectations early

Many kids these days just assume that turning a certain age means it’s their right of passage into something great. Turning 13 (or younger) equals smartphone; turning 16 equals car; turning 18 equals who knows what else. It’s better to cut off that line of thinking before it starts. This should eliminate the back and forth discussion or argument when they realize that yours and their expectations weren’t aligned.

You don’t have to straight to a smartphone

When you do feel your child is ready to take on a little more responsibility, it doesn’t mean you should be standing in line for the iPhone 8. There are interim solutions that can introduce children to phone ownership. I am an advocate of giving an older child a basic cell phone for emergency use and the ability to text updates. However, I don’t anticipate allowing my child to have a smartphone until they are well into their teenage years - and that will also come along with needing to contribute financially to the device. I think an older and more mature brain can better handle the responsibilities of a smartphone - including the daily wear and tear items typically get in a tween/teen’s backpack.

I brought this up to my daughter, letting her know that this would be a possibility in the coming years and her face lit up.  Ensuring a sense of independence and autonomy WITH the help of a phone was more important to my daughter than looking up random Pokémon characters on the way to school.

Bonus: You keep track of your kid’s whereabouts without worrying about what apps they are using at a young age.

So what’s a parent to do before their children are responsible enough to handle any kind of phone?

Advancements in technology are giving modern parents a bigger arsenal of tools and I for one am all for taking advantage of this. We’re seeing more child location tracking devices surfacing. Products that work with a parent’s smartphone to help keep tabs on the kids. When you’re talking about the best product to help you do this - before they’re cell phone ready - there are some expectations you should have.

Jiobit does the unique blend of matching technology with safety using a combination of radios and sensors which allow it to track your child in every location - indoors, outdoors, on multi-levels and in over 160 countries. Basically it does what a smartphone can do, only you, the parent, are in control of checking in on your kid.  Whether or not you choose to use a cell phone or smartphone to help your kids check in, a tool like Jiobit is a ‘set it and forget it’ addition to your daily schedule routine. For me this is a smart use of technology for kids. It gives me peace of mind and eliminates the pressure of handing my kids their own personal smartphone before I’m good and ready.

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Blagica Bottigliero is an Emmy winning veteran of digital marketing, creating websites for companies like Maytag and Purina, helping found the eMarketing team at Orbitz, and leading social media at Motorola Mobility and Target.  Blagica led Edelman Digital's Strategy division and grew ModSquad's Digital Media practice. Today, Blagica is the Founder of Zlato Digital, a boutique digital marketing and social media consultancy. She is the former Co-Chair of the Cook County New Media Council, was part of the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid and serves on the Oak Park Civic Information Systems Commission.

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