Google Introduces Family Link, A Remote Control for Your Kids’ Phones

This week Google is announcing Family Link, its latest foray into the digital parenting game.

Family Link is, for the time being, an Android app available in the U.S. only, and can be used by parents who are Android users, with kid(s) under 13 who are also Android users. The app is invitation only, and you can request an invite here.

Android parental controlsHere’s how it works:

  • Once invited, parents can download the Family Link app. They will need their own Google account first.
  • Parents then set up a Family Link Google account, the one that will have settings applicable to the child.
  • Once installed, each time the child uses the Android device – a phone or tablet – parents will have more control over what the child can do and when.

On what the child can do:

  • Parents can block apps installed on the device from being used (like email, for example)
  • Parents have the opportunity to block or approve each new app download
  • Parents can ensure that Google safe search settings are always on

On when kids are using their device:

  • Parents can set a bedtime, after which the device can’t be used until the next day
  • Parents can set a daily usage time limit, after which the device is locked (for the child) until the next day
  • Parents can remotely lock the device on demand, when it’s time for dinner or for something other than using the device
  • Parents can view weekly or monthly usage reports, by app, whenever they want

Additionally, parents can remotely see the location of their child’s device, which is great for when the device is lost, or when the child is.

A note on privacy: Setting up a Family Link account for your child will result in Google having more personal information on your child than would otherwise have been the case. Google’s privacy disclosures are here.

Family Link seems like a good option for parents looking for more control. If you’re an Android family with kids under 13, we suggest you check it out, but as is the case with any tech solution, this will not take the place of parenting.

~

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our newsletter below.

 

The Right Age for Your Child’s First Smartphone

We often get questions related to how old a child “should” be when he or she gets his or her own smartphone, tablet or other personal electronic device. Our answer is almost always, “It depends” – it depends on the maturity of the child, what she needs it for and a host of other factors.

There is new data out of the UK that shows that, nor surprisingly, the average age for kids getting their first device is getting younger. UK regulator Ofcom publishes regular surveys about a host of digital parenting issues, and a look at the 2016 data compared to 2015 paints the device ownership picture pretty well.

iphone-2016In 2016:

  • 41% of kids aged 5 – 15 own their own smartphone, vs. 35% in 2015
  • The most dramatic increase was among 8 – 11 year olds, with a third more kids getting their own smartphone. 32% own their own device vs. 24% on 2015
  • In the 12 – 15 year old group, numbers rose to 79% in 2016 vs. 69% on 2015

So, if your child is 10 – 12 years old, it may be almost true when he says, “All of my friends have a phone”.

Tablet ownership is skewing younger as well:

  • 44% of kids aged 5 – 15 own their own tablet, up from 40% in 2015
  • Toddlers are getting in the game as well, with 16% of 3 – 4 year olds having their own tablet
  • 32% of 5 – 7 year olds own their own tablet
  • 49% of 8 – 15 year olds own their own tablet

The ownership trends are clear – up to the age of 10, kids are more likely to own a tablet. After age 10, tablet ownership declines, and smartphone ownership rises quickly.

If your child is aged 8 – 12, how do you decide whether she is ready for her first smartphone? Here are some of the questions that you might want to ask yourself:

  • Is your child mature enough to put it the device when appropriate?
  • Does she need a phone so that you can keep in touch?
  • Is your child able to identify potential risks when she sees them?
  • Are you ready to have tough conversations with her in advance, about sexting, cyberbullying and predator risk?
  • Is she willing to turn to you for guidance if she finds herself in an uncertain situation?
  • Are you willing to have a set of rules in place, and enforce them?

Handing over a smartphone to a child, knowing that much of the use will be unsupervised, is a tough decision, but one that every parent is forced to make at some point. If you’ve had a difficult or encouraging experience in your household, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Teen Device and Tech Addiction

We’re quick to agree that when you are doing something that is unequivocally bad for you, being able to define addiction is one of the first steps in combatting it. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco all fit into this category – some of them may be okay in moderation but all are not good or healthy when used excessively.

When it comes to something that is not inherently bad for you, such as mobile phone use, it is both trickier and perhaps less important to define addiction. Of course, if you’re on your phone so much that your are failing your classes or have trouble keeping a job, that is bad, but may not rise to the level of addiction.

Not surprisingly, parents and teens have very different views of what constitutes device addiction, and those contrasts are laid out clearly in an infographic from Common Sense media titled Dealing With Devices: The Parent-Teen Dynamic.

teen phone addiction
Source: Common Sense Media

Some of the highlights:

  • 59% of parents say their teens are addicted to their devices vs. 50% of teens admitting this is true
  • 72% of teens feel the need to respond immediately to messages whereas 48% of parents say the same about themselves

There are lots of other great statistics in the infographic and you should check it out, but let’s talk about what is laid out above.

First, only 27% of teens feel like they’re addicted to their devices but 72% of them think it is important to respond to messages immediately. Is that addiction, or something else? My teenage boys insist on wearing shorts to school year round almost regardless of the temperature. Are they addicted to wearing shorts? Of course not.

The website psychguides.com has a helpful (albeit brief, and not a substitute for seeing a professional) guide to teen device addiction. According to that guide, principal symptoms exhibited by a teen addicted to her device include anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

You’re more of an expert on parenting your teen than we are, but perhaps if your teen isn’t exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression, her phone habit isn’t an addiction. Maybe staying in contact with her friends is important to her. We are big fans of good grades, strong relationships and teens having a balanced life. Just because a teen is on her phone more than her parents, or more than her parents think she should be, doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t perfectly normal.

A pretty telling example of this is found in the study by Common Sense Media that accompanies the infographic. Teens are big fans of multitasking, and they are even using their phones while they are doing fun leisure activities.

The number of teens who use another medium some or most of the time while:

  • Listening to music – 73%
  • Using a computer – 66%
  • Watching TV – 68%
  • Reading – 53%
  • Playing video games – 48%

Being attached to a phone is the new normal. Sure, it can cause problems but it’s not necessarily an addition. Look closely for other symptoms, especially if the rest of the pieces seem to be in place.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Age For Your Child’s First Cell Phone

A local New Jersey story this week featured a quote from a child psychologist, Dr. Steven Tobias, that we have a real problem with. The quote, which was offered when discussing the appropriate age to give a child his or her first cell phone:

“Whenever the parent wants their child to stop making eye contact with them and not talk to them anymore, that is when they should get the kid a cell phone, because that is often what happens. The kid’s face is in the phone all of the time, you go out to dinner, you are at the dinner table, and they are using the phone. I have been in practice for a while now, and I can tell you that right now, about 50 percent of the conflicts within the family ha[ve] to do with technology, cell phones, iPads, things like that.”

We have way more faith in parents – and teens and tweens – than Dr. Tobias does. Just because a parent gives a child a phone, doesn’t mean the kid can use it whenever he wants.

If you’re wondering what is actually happening these days in terms of parents giving their kids smartphones, you’re in luck. A new survey titled Influence Central’s 2016 Digital Trends Study gives a very good rundown. The survey was conducted by Influence Central and polled 500 moms in February of this year. Results were compared to a similar survey conducted by the group in 2012.

child iPhoneThe highlights:

  • The average age for kids getting their first phone is 10.3 year old (this feels about right to us)
  • The number of parents who use the phone’s GPS to track their kids’ location has more than doubled – 15% vs. 7% in 2012
  • 27% of parents use filters to control what content kids access on their phones
  • 34% of families use the parental controls built into the phones, and huge increase from 14% in 2012
  • 45% of kids use phones for entertainment in car trips
  • 38% of kids can access the internet via their phone (we’re guessing this is actually much higher)
  • 50% of kids have at least one social media account by the age of 12 (the minimum age is 13), while 11% of kids have a social media account before they turn 10-years old

One area where we agree with Dr. Tobias is his statement that the maturity level of the child is more important than his age when deciding on a first phone. As a parent, you are best qualified to decide when that is.

Giving your child her first phone doesn’t have to mean that you’re in for a constant struggle. Here’s what to do:

  • Talk about the risks – predator risk, identity theft, cyberbullying, whatever your hot button issue is – before you say yes to the phone, and regularly thereafter.
  • Put parental restrictions on the phone before it hits your child’s hands. You can restrict app downloads (entirely or by age limit), select approved ratings for music, TV shows and movies, restrict access to certain websites, turn off location settings and much more.
  • Is social media permitted? If you’ve implemented parental controls, you can say yes or no to each app download.
  • Have a set of rules for what is okay and what isn’t – when she can use her phone and for how long, what she can do, what she must not do, who she can contact, who can contact her.
  • Have a plan for what will happen if your child feels unsafe or is unsure of something.

 

If your teen or tween already has a phone, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Managing Parental Restrictions On Your Child’s iPhone

We wrote recently about how to determine the right age to give your child her first phone. When that time comes, you might opt for a cheap, simple phone or you may decide that the iPhone is the right choice.

Apple updated its operating system to iOS 9.3 this week, and it looks to us as though the restrictions settings have changed, so we thought we’d walk you through how to manage the restrictions if you’re doing it for the first time.

ProTip: If this is a new phone, or your child’s first phone, set the restrictions before you give the phone to your child. None of the restrictions are permanent, so any or all of them can be set for an hour or a year; it’s up to you.

Let’s get started

iphone-parental-restrictions

 

The first step is to set the passcode. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and you will be asked to enter a passcode. The initial Restrictions passcode will be the same as the passcode for the phone’s home screen. To change it to one only you will know, after you’ve entered the passcode, tap “Disable Restrictions” on the top of the next screen. Then tap “Enable Restrictions” and you will be asked to set a new passcode. You’ll be asked to enter it twice. Don’t forget this passcode because if you do and want to adjust the restrictions in the future, you’ll need to reset the phone entirely.

 

 

Features

IMG2The first section determines which of the phone’s features you want your child to be able to use. The default option is “on” (green). If you tap the green button, it will change to white, meaning that you have restricted the use of that feature. In terms of what each does, most are self-explanatory, but for parents who are new to Apple:

Safari – This is Apple’s internet browser. If you don’t want your child browsing the web on her phone, disable Safari.

Camera – If you want to restrict the ability to take pictures, disable Camera. This may be a good idea temporarily if you’re going to church or to a funeral.

Siri & Dictation – Siri is Apple’s digital assistant. Her job is to answer questions that you speak into the phone. Dictation can be used for talk-to-text.

Facetime – Facetime can be used to video call other iPhone users.

Airdrop – Allows iPhone users to share photos, videos, websites, locations, and other files with Apple device users who are nearby.

CarPlay – Connects the iPhone to your car’s dashboard display and controls. If you want to blast your kid’s tunes while driving him to soccer, don’t touch this setting.

Downloads and Media

IMG3For the next section of restrictions, your choices are on/off as well, as in “allow” or “don’t allow”.

iTunes Store – Leaving this on will allow your child to download songs from the iTunes store if she has money in her iTunes account.

Apple Music Connect – Allows music fans to interact with content direct from their favorite artists.

iBooks Store – If you want her to be able to buy books to read on this phone (or iPad), leave this on. Again, she’ll need to have to have money in her iTunes account.

Podcasts – These are digital audio or video files that can be downloaded to the phone.

News – A selection of news articles curated by Apple.

Installing Apps – If you want to approve each app download, tap this restriction. In that way, your child will have to ask you to remove the restriction with each new download. This is a big one for younger kids.

Deleting Apps – If there are apps that you want to stay on the phone no matter what, tap this restriction.

In-App Purchases – Many games allow players to make game-related purchases (upgrades, game tools) in the course of playing. If you plan to fund your child’s iTunes account, but don’t want the money spent on gaming, tap this restriction.

Content

IMG4The next section is Allowed Content. Your options here are a little more complicated. All content in the iTunes store is labeled or rated, either by the creator or a third party.

Ratings For – Select your home country from this list to ensure that the age/other ratings are accurate for your area.

Music, Podcasts & News – Here you can choose whether you want to allow your child to be able to access explicit content – words, lyrics, images or video.

Movies – Your can choose “No Movies”, “All Movies” or approve according to rating – G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. If you leave the checkmark beside the PG, for example, your child will be able to watch PG-rated movies on this phone.

TV Shows – Again, you can enable no TV shows or all TV shows, or restrict by rating from TV-Y (okay for young viewers) to TV-MA (mature audiences only).

Books – In this section you can prohibit the download of books with explicit sexual content.

Apps – Every app in the App Store is age-rated. You can allow all apps or none, or choose one of the age limits suggested by Apple, which are 4+ (okay for kids 4 and older), 9+. 12+, 17+. FYI, an app that is rated 17+ will not do anything effective to prevent a 12-year old from using it. You need to apply that setting here.

Siri – There are two options here. The first is to prohibit Siri requests that include explicit content. You should tap on this one. The second is whether you want Siri to search the web for content requested by the speaker. This one is up to you.

Websites – You can allow access to all websites, prohibit web access to sites with adult content, or type in specific websites that you don’t want accessed from this phone.

Location and Services

IMG5Location Services – If the location services are turned on, there are many ways that your child can unknowingly divulge her location, in real time, to strangers. Location services can be enabled or disabled for the entire phone, or on an app-by-app basis. For the youngest kids, we recommend turning location services off and tapping the Don’t Allow Changes button so that your child can’t turn it on. If you use an app to track your child’s location, this solution won’t work for you.

The list of apps and services that may use the phone’s location are listed below. Each of them can be set to Never or While Using. For example, let’s say your daughter takes a selfie and sends it to a friend. If the Camera’s location setting here is set to “While Using”, the picture will include data that shows the location where the picture was taken. This can be unsafe.

Contacts – This setting controls which apps will be able to access the phone’s contacts list. If there is an app that you don’t trust, your child shouldn’t be using it, but if you’re at all unsure, tap the green button beside that app, then tap the Don’t Allow Changes button at the top.

You can safely ignore the next two – Calendars and Reminders.

Photos – If your child is using an app and you don’t want her posting pictures to that app, this section is for you. Tap the green button beside the apps you want to restrict, then tap the Don’t Allow Changes button at the top.

Share my Location – If you use the Find My Friends app to keep track of your child’s location, tap Don’t Allow Changes here.

Gaming

IMG6There are a few other restrictions at the bottom that we don’t need to get into, but there is one of note for parents, and that is Game Center.

Tapping to restrict Multiplayer Games will limit your child’s game options to those that are single player only. Doing this is a good idea if you’re worried about your child being cyberbullied in multi player games. I use this setting for my daughter. Tapping the Adding Friends button will restrict the phone from adding new contacts in the game center, and from using the phone’s contacts list to send game invitations.

In summary, Apple has done a great job giving parents the flexibility to lock down areas and functions that concern them. From what we’ve seen Android phones have a similar set of capabilities, and we’ll review those in the coming weeks.

If you still have questions, you can leave them below and we’ll respond by email.

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?: The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

The Right Age For Your Child’s First Smartphone

Is there a perfect age to give your child his first cell phone? It’s an important question. It would be nice if there were a perfect age, but having a quick and easy answer isn’t always an option for parents. Let’s take me as an example.

I was a strange kid. Some said I was accident prone, and others said I went about things with too much gusto and too little worry. Maybe both are true.

Here is a partial list of unfortunate things that happened to me before my 15th birthday, to the best of my recollection and in no particular order:

Bitten by a dog – We were riding in the back seat of my uncle’s car to go swimming. There were several kids (no seatbelts!) and a dog. Provoked by who-knows-what, the dog bit me in the face, requiring several stitches to put my lower eyelid back in order.

Bitten by a dog Part II – We were walking home from a movie theater (unaccompanied!) and took a shortcut through an abandoned lot. A rather large and very mean German Shepherd decided to bite me in the back. I was wearing a winter coat so I lived to tell the tale.

Hammer to the forehead – The neighbor hood kids were building a go-cart and I leaned over one of the bigger kid’s shoulder to see what he was doing. He was swinging a hammer. Several stitches to the forehead were the result.

Almost drowned in a pool – Before I had learned to swim, we were playing in the shallow end of a cousin’s pool. There was a buoy line between the shallow end and the deep end. I somehow managed to slip under the buoy line and sink like a stone. Luckily, my big sister was nearby and dragged me to safety.

Hit in the face with a hockey stick – My dad used to turn our yard into an outdoor rink in the winter, and the ice would draw a crowd of kids. One evening we were playing pickup hockey (no helmets!) and I took a stick to the face, busting open my upper lip. Again, it took several stiches to close the wound and I still have the scar.

Lost front tooth in bike accident – I was riding my bike down a suburban street (my first 10-speed) and the chain fell off. I looked down to see what happened and crashed headlong into a parked car. It’s kind of a big deal to be the only kid in class missing a front tooth.

Chipped 4 front teeth playing backyard football – I was going frantically after a loose ball and one of the bigger kids inadvertently elbowed me in the mouth. Four new crowns were my reward. The dentist and I became good friends.

My guess is that if smartphones were around when I was a kid, not matter how old I was when I got one,young-child-phone I would have done something reckless with it. There would have been no “right” age for me to get a phone, in the same way that there was no “right” age for me to be playing pickup football, hockey or riding a bike. I just was. Was I too young to be walking home from the theater without an adult? Probably, but we just did that back then. Was I too young to be riding in a car with a dog? Certainly not, even though that dog did have a mean streak.

There isn’t a perfect age to give a child a smartphone, period. It depends on a number of factors – maturity, familiarity with technology, ability to identify dangerous situations and ability to resist temptation. There may be a right age for your child, but all kids are different.

For every parent who is overly cautious and waits too long to give a child a cell phone, there are probably 3 or 4 who do so too early. That’s life, but then again there are risks everywhere.

To put your family in the best possible situation and ensure that your child stays safe and uses that phone responsibly, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Talk about the risks – predator risk, identity theft, cyberbullying, whatever your hot button issue is – before you say yes to the phone, and regularly thereafter.
  2. Put parental restrictions on the phone before it hits your child’s hands. You can restrict app downloads (entirely or by age limit), select approved ratings for music, TV shows and movies, restrict access to certain websites, turn off location settings and much more.
  3. Have a set of rules for what is okay and what isn’t – what she can do, what she must not do, who she can contact, who can contact her.
  4. Have a plan for what will happen if your child feels unsafe or is unsure of something.

Your child is going to have a smartphone at some point. Even the most thoughtful parents can ensure that nothing bad will ever happen to their child, but by considering the decision carefully, and preparing your child beforehand, you can give yourself the best chance.

 

 

 

DID YOU KNOW? The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel your subscription at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Your Child’s First Phone or iPod

We’ve given a lot of thought to the age at which parents should consider giving a child their first connected device – think iPod, tablet, phone or gaming console. A fully functioning computer is usually not the first device that a child can call her own.

iphone-2016We’ll admit that one of our primary considerations in evaluating the topic has been safety, specifically predator risk and exposure to cyberbullying. Others include managing time spent online and controlling access to age-inappropriate content and other users.

An unfortunate thing happened in our family over the holidays that opened my eyes to another important consideration, and I thought I’d share.

My daughter, we’ll call her Kate, is 8 years old and until Christmas, she was without her own personal device, although there were phones and tablets around the house that she had highly supervised access to from time to time. Around Christmas, one of my teenage boys was due for a phone upgrade, but his older model iPhone 5C was still functional. We decided to transfer his phone contract to his new phone and give the old phone to Kate to use, as she would an iPod – no phone capability, Wi-Fi only. We carefully monitor which apps, games, videos and websites she can access, which music she can listen to and above all who can contact her. Her “phone” doesn’t make the trip into her bedroom or to school. For the most part it has gone smoothly.

My brother and family, who live about 8 hours away, were at our house for a few days over New Year’s. They have a daughter, we’ll call her Mary, who is 12 and has her own phone. Over the course of the visit, despite the fact that they only see each other about once a year, Kate and Mary became fast friends.

For a couple of weeks after the visit ended Kate and Mary were in contact via text or Facetime daily, and were getting along great. Then the following happened:

While they were in the middle of a Facetime conversation, Kate’s phone battery died, with no charger nearby. When they were able to reconnect later, the conversation went something like this:

Mary: You hung up on me. (a reasonable-ish conclusion, though not the case)

Kate: No I didn’t. My phone died. You’re a liar. (unbeknownst to me, in Kate’s 8-year old mind a liar is anyone who says something that’s not true, regardless of intent)

Mary: You called me a liar. I’m never talking to you again.

**Click**

That was almost a month ago, and despite the fact that we parents have talked to each of our respective daughters, they haven’t spoken since. We’re sure the girls will patch things up, but there were a couple of important lessons in here, for us at least.

  • Online communication can be more nuanced and difficult to navigate than face-to-face conversations. Pre teens might not be ready.
  • Pre teens’ conflict resolution skills can be poorly developed or nonexistent.

We as parents dropped the ball here. In addition to focusing on who Kate can talk to online, we should have focused on how she should be communicating. Perhaps some role-playing would have helped. Maybe we should have had her nearby when she was chatting with her cousin. Maybe she’s too young to text anyone except mom and dad.

In any case, the message is that once you’ve decided that your child is old enough, and emotionally mature enough, to own a device and more unsupervised communications, the job hasn’t ended. It is just getting started.

 

 

 

NEW: For a limited time the ThirdParent audit is FREE (normally $49). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Gen Z and Smartphone Etiquette

The Center for Generational Kinetics has a big study out titled the 2016 National Study on Technology and the Generation After Millennials, and it’s very good. The study creators assume that Generation Z, kids born in 1996 or later, will be the generation that is going to define standards of what is normal and acceptable when it comes to the use of personal technology. If you’re the parent of a Gen Z kid, you should check out the link to the full report above. In this post, we are going to focus on Gen Z attitudes toward smartphone use, and what it means for being a parent of kids in this group.

The architect of the study, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Dorsey, puts the following quote front and center:

jason-dorsey-smartphones

No matter your opinion about whether that quote is true, it is a fact that the government has strict control over driving age and stipulations and restrictions on licenses and driving rules. As a parent, you can’t choose to legally allow your child to drive at 11. You can, however, buy him a smartphone with unrestricted internet access. We join the study authors in thinking that is a big deal. There is no internet license that one can obtain. Your mileage will vary.

Full data is not presented in the study, but from excerpts in the release it is clear that Gen Z believes that it is appropriate for younger kids to have a cell phone than do older generations. For example, 18% of Gen Z respondents think it’s okay for a 13-year old to have a smartphone vs. 4% for older generations.

In our experience, most 13-year olds have a smartphone so I’m not sure Gen Z is ahead of the curve here, or at least ahead of Gen Z parents. Where they look to be off base is captured in what they say about situations in which smartphone use is acceptable. Strangely, Gen Z is less approving than older generations of using a phone at work or at a movie, but at least some respondents in Gen Z (and a higher percentage of respondents than of any other generation), think it’s okay to use a smartphone:

  • During a job interview
  • At your own wedding
  • At the dinner table

Here’s our take, and why we think these results are important for parents of Gen Z kids: It is important for kids to understand that while they might think something is appropriate, and their peers might agree, going down that path could lead to a disastrous result.

I’m a parent of three Gen Z kids, and we absolutely don’t think it’s okay for kids or adults to use a smartphone at the dinner table. If I interviewed a candidate who thought it appropriate to pull out a smartphone during an interview, that candidate would not get the job.

As any technology becomes ubiquitous, power users and early adopters (Gen Z kids tend to be both) see use of that tech as normal, and may assume that it is acceptable in any manner of situations. It’s up to parents to communicate what the rest of society may think.

 

 

NEW: For a limited time the ThirdParent audit is FREE (normally $49). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Top Apps for Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas folks. We hope everyone had a safe and relaxing holiday and enjoyed it with loved ones. Today, we thought we’d look at the App Store charts and see what’s trending this Christmas. If one of top-app-12-2015-1your kids got a new phone or iPod for Christmas, no doubt some of these apps are already on his home screen.

 

First for the paid apps: As you can see the top 4 are games, indicating perhaps that kids with new devices or extra downtime were the top downloaders over the last couple of days.

If you’re a parent with kids who are around 10, you won’t be surprised to see that Minecraft has two of the top five spots. One of my teen boys has been playing Minecraft for years, and still plays, and my 8-year old daughter is begging to get it. We’re holding off for now with the 8-year old because there is some bullying that goes on during gameplay.

Coming in 5th place is Kim Kardashian’s emoji app. Not much to say there other than it is obvious that Americans love texting, emojis and celebrity.top-app-12-2015-2

 

Next for the free apps: Frankly, we’re surprised that there aren’t more games here. The top spot is one for the adults (the Fitbit app) and indicates that the exercise-tracking bracelet was probably under a lot of Christmas trees this year.

Dominating the top ten are social media apps, with Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook (plus Facebook Messenger) all appearing in the top 10.

The big shock in the top 10? For us, that would have to be iTunes U – a homework management app. We don’t have a lot of experience with iTunes U, but if kids en masse are downloading it the their tablets or phones, maybe they are using their electronics to do homework.

top-apps-12-2015-3Rounding out the top 10 are Pandora, a free music streaming app, Piano Tiles 2, the lone game on the list, and of course Netflix. A word to parents: If your child just got his first phone, make sure to warn him to only stream Netflix movies and TV shows when he is on a Wi-Fi connection. You data bills could go through the roof if he is streaming away your family’s cellular data.

Are you a parent who just gave a child their first cell phone? We have tips here for how to enable and set parental restrictions. If you’re not sure what rules you might want to implement you can click here. Finally, if you haven’t implemented rules and want to get an idea of what your child is doing on that phone, you can click here.

Enjoy the holidays!

 

 

NEW: For a limited time the ThirdParent audit is FREE (normally $49). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Infographic – Parent’s Guide to Teens and Mobile Use

There’s a great new infographic out this month from the folks at CellPhoneCity’s Responsible Gadget Ownership team titled A Parent’s Guide to Teens and Mobile Use.

You can see the full infographic below, but first there are a couple of statistics that caught our eye:

The average US child gets his first cell phone at age 12. This seems like the correct number to us. There was a widely mentioned study earlier this year that claimed the average age is 6 years old, but we didn’t believe that for a second. Of course, it may be appropriate for kids younger than 12 to have a cell phone, particularly latch key kids or those who are active in after school activities. When you do it is an important consideration; what you tell them about it is equally so…

Only 26% of families have a contract for cell phone use. A contract, which spells out what is permitted and what isn’t, is certainly helpful, but the same end can be achieved without a formal document. It is very important that parents spell out the family’s expectations for safe and responsible use.

The full infographic:

While some schools use smartphones or tablets for in-class educational activities, according to the survey 72% of schools do not permit cell phone use in class. 51% of teens take their phone to school every day, so make sure that your child knows the rules and avoids distraction.

Only 17 states have laws on the books regarding sexting, but anyone who watches the news knows that it is a growing problem. Talk to your child early about the risks – before you purchase that first phone.

Smartphones are now part of the landscape, and we’re not going back. Make sure that your child understands the rules and the risks before purchasing their first phone, and monitor things carefully. It’s the safe and smart thing to do.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.