Responding to investors’ calls for Apple to make its devices safer for children, the company that makes the smartphones and mobile devices linked to poor school performance, sleep disruption, mood changes, and suicide risk says it is “constantly looking for ways to make our experiences better.” Sam Shead reports that Apple takes its responsibility for protecting kids “very seriously”:
“Apple has always looked out for kids, and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online. We lead the industry by offering intuitive parental controls built right into the operating system.
“With today’s iOS devices, parents have the ability to control and restrict content including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features. Effectively anything a child could download or access online can be easily blocked or restricted by a parent.”
As we’ve noted before on The PediaBlog, it is up to parents to decide how much screen time and which content is appropriate for their children; online and social media safety is ultimately a parental responsibility. A big decision parents need to make is when to buy a child their first smartphone. Allison Slater Tate introduces the “Wait Until 8th Pledge”:
As debate swirls across the internet about social media and its effect on teenagers, one Austin mom has created a movement to try to delay introducing smartphones to children until they are at least 14 years old.
In an effort to persuade and support families in her children’s elementary school to wait until their kids were at least 14 or in 8th grade to give them smartphones, Brooke Shannon created the Wait Until 8th pledge last spring, which asks parents to promise “not to give your child a smartphone until at least 8th grade as long as at least 10 other families from your child’s grade and school pledge as well.”
“Our hope is to create a support network for those parents who would like to wait on giving their child a phone,” Shannon told TODAY Parents. “Every family has various circumstances and dynamics that will shape this decision. We hope by creating this pledge, parents that would like to wait will feel more empowered to do so.”
Taking the pledge still allows younger kids to have a basic phone for calls and texting, without the distractions and dangers associated with smartphones. Emily Retter says Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and his wife decided on a few smartphone ground rules for their family. Gates told her:
“We often set a time after which there is no screen time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour.
“You’re always looking at how it can be used in a great way – homework and staying in touch with friends – and also where it has gotten to excess.
“We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier.”
Parents who would like to limit their children’s use of digital technology may want to follow these recommendations from the New York Times Children’s Technology Review editor, Warren Buckleitner:
> Get a pet. A puppy gives you an excuse to take a walk several times a day. And it gives you an excuse to buy new carpeting every few years.
> Play cards and other board games that require eye contact and back and forth interpersonal interactions. Our favorite: Spoons.
> Collect coins. Every member of the family can be on the look out for a special quarter.
> Watch the world up close and far away. Put up a birdfeeder, and keep some good binoculars around… You can also buy a $20 lens for your smart phone that will turn it into a microscope.
> Build a snow fish. If it’s summer, make it a sand castle.
> Plant something, and watch it grow. A bean or an amaryllis bulb is a fail-safe starter option.
> Hug your kids. There is no digital substitute for cuddling!