Do This Before You Pass a Smartphone or Tablet to Your Child

With great technology comes great responsibility. When kids want smartphone screen time for themselves, what can we, as parents, do?

Your child’s 13th birthday is approaching, and he has been asking for a smartphone because all his friends have one. You’re considering getting him a phone, but you’re worried about the negative effects that smartphones can have on children.

As parents, that’s normal! After all, you have read about children becoming addicted to their phones, staying up late, and neglecting their health. Additionally, the Internet can be a dangerous place for children, with cyberbullying, grooming, and inappropriate content being potential risks.

kid with tablet screen time

To give or not to give in?

According to the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, smartphone screen time, social media use, and Internet safety are among the top concerns of parents regarding their children’s health. 

Despite your concerns, you realize that 95% of teenagers these days have a smartphone, and you’re not sure if delaying your child’s access to one is the best approach. So now, you’re torn: should I wait it out or give in?

There is ongoing research on the effects of technology on child development, and the findings are somewhat mixed. Some experts advise against exposing young children to screens entirely, while others believe it can be beneficial if used in the right environment and alongside other activities such as reading and exercise. 

But it’s important to note that personal computing should not replace physical activity, reading, or human interaction—as these are vital to child development. 

Smartphones and tablets are a gateway to learning!

However, when used appropriately, technology can offer new educational experiences, broaden children’s horizons, and help them develop new skills. 

Here are the benefits of the Internet and your children can use the Internet to: 

  1. Stay in touch with distant family members and friends through video calls and photo sharing. 
  2. Explore their interests in music, art, cooking, etc. through online resources and tutorials. 
  3. Find engaging and creative entertainment. 
  4. Access high-quality educational content. 
  5. Get help with homework or specific problems. 
  6. Access affordable education resources that may not be available in their community. 

As parents, it’s natural to want to ensure that our children are safe online and limit their screen time. However, a more effective approach would be to empower them to use the screen and the Internet responsibly and positively. By doing so, we can help our children develop critical thinking and digital literacy skills, which are essential for their future success. 

So, instead of simply restricting screen time, let’s take a proactive approach and give our children the tools they need to navigate the digital world safely and confidently.

Meet Nicole

After working with parents with kids with screen addiction, I find that the best time to work on this is before you pass a smartphone to your child. But before we dive into the steps, let me introduce you to Nicole: a busy working mom and a business owner who has a wonderful 4-year-old daughter. 

In the past, her daughter spent around 8 hours a day on the iPad and smartphone, which was a cause of concern for Nicole. After going through our course on “Reducing Screen Time,” Nicole was able to regulate her daughter’s screen time significantly. 

She was able to bring down the screen time from 8 hours to just 2 hours a day!

Nicole tells us that whenever she tried to take away the devices or asked her daughter to stop screen time, her daughter would throw tantrums, fight, or even have meltdowns. After working with us, Nicole learned effective ways to handle her daughter’s screen time and take away the devices without any fuss.

Her daughter is now calmer and understands why there are specific times when screen time is not allowed. 

What’s more, Nicole found it overwhelming to set clear boundaries for her daughter’s screen time due to her busy schedule. She was not able to guide her daughter consistently on healthy screen use. However, after working with us, Nicole was able to set clear boundaries and has an agreement with her daughter about screen use.

As a result, her daughter now understands the boundaries and has agreed to their screen use. She also responded better to her daughter’s needs and was able to regulate her daughter’s screen time effectively. 

How to set proper screen time rules on smartphones and tablets

Setting boundaries, modeling healthy screen habits, and setting an agreement on smartphone and tablet screen time use. These are all important so that both parent and child are on the same page. Here are the steps I recommend parents to do before they pass the smartphone to their child:

1. Learn how to set healthy boundaries with the smartphones.

According to a recent report by Statista, approximately 3.8 billion people in the world are addicted to their phones. This accounts for over 48% of the world’s population!

But here’s the thing: setting boundaries is important in all aspects of life—especially when it comes to wealth, health, and relationships. For example, just as we need to set boundaries with our food to maintain good health, we need to set boundaries with screens as well.

2. Model healthy screen habits.

Many adults are equally addicted to the screens, but we, as parents need to remember that our example matters. After all, we are the first people that our children learn from about healthy screen habits.

This means that when we set boundaries with the screen, we need to apply them to ourselves first. This will enable us to self-regulate and show healthier screen habits to model to our children.

3. Have conversations with your child about smartphone screen time and use. 

We should have an open conversation with our children about smartphone use in the family. This will help children understand the importance of setting boundaries with smartphones and help them follow the agreement.

4. Guide children to set boundaries with the smartphone and have an agreement on smartphone use.

We should help our children set boundaries with their smartphones, and come to an agreement on smartphone use. Apart from just focusing on time, we, as parents, should also discuss the content children consume and Internet safety.

5. Install parental control software to ensure that your child’s smartphone is safe for their use.

Parental control software allows us to block access to adult websites, limit the use of smartphones to particular times, manage whom our children can phone and message and who can contact them, and limit how much money they can spend online.

Remember no parental control software is bulletproof, and therefore having ongoing conversations about what’s happening is the best way to navigate their online world.

6. Be patient and respond calmly.

Although no matter how well you have set the boundaries and agreement on the family screen use, sometimes kids are unable to follow through. 

It is normal. 

Parents should avoid reacting and instead respond calmly to their children’s misbehavior and guide them back to the family and the agreement on smartphone use.

Read up about screen time here!

Screen Time or Scream Time? How to Manage Gadget Use in the Family, Minus the Squabbles

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

Iza Calzado and Coleen Garcia Share Thoughts On Mom Guilt and Screen Time

Jessie Liew is the founder of Digital Parenting Coaching and a mother of 4. Her previous career included working as a cybersecurity specialist, where she protected clients from the harmful effects caused by online hackers and predators. In her spare time, Jessie enjoys reading, playing games, and adventures.

If you would like to learn more about Jessie and her work, please visit her website at  You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin as Jessie Liew SP.

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