Gifting Tech: Setting Your Teen Up For Success



Giving the gift of tech for the holidays? Smartphones, tablets and connected gaming devices are popular gifts to give for Christmas and Hanukkah, not to mention a favorite to receive among teenagers and pre-teens. With such gifts that connect our kids around the clock to the digital world comes a whole new world of expression and experiences — and the opportunity for parents to have a conversation together with children about digital responsibility.

To keep that excitement and joy going months after they unwrapped their present, here are some real-world stories moms and dads shared with us to help you when you have “the talk.”

I have a 12-year-old with both a cellphone and an iPad mini, and both are used for school. We put down the ground rules before we got each device, and have many rules in place. He doesn’t like to talk on the phone, and uses messaging more often. The first 6 months, all of his messages also went to my iPad. He isn’t allowed to delete any messages, and also knows that at anytime I can ask him for his phone and iPad over to view his messages. We don’t allow him to use his tablet or phone to view YouTube on the bus, and all devices go off at 9pm at and are plugged in for the night. We have the understanding that he’ll lose both if any of his activity is deemed inappropriate.

When we got our daughter a cell phone, we put parental restrictions on the device. She also knows that we monitor her use of the phone, both her contacts and texting. She really does great with it.

I didn’t see a reason for my children to have cell phones before high school, so they received them as a gift for their 8th grade graduation and we talked ahead of time about the fact that they would be receiving them.

Giving our kids a phone gave us peace of mind about their safety and being able to get in touch with them, and it also excited them and made them feel more responsible. We chatted with them about the financial aspect of it so that they knew it cost money each month, and that it is a privilege to have. In the beginning we had the passwords to access their device but we don’t access it in private, instead we say, “hey, show me this.” I didn’t want their phone or tablet to be a sticky subject for us constantly, and stressed that if it did, they would be taken away. So to prevent it, we keep an eye on the apps they're using and sites they’re visiting, and try to just talk to them about how their day is everyday. They use their phones and iPads for a lot of things and so far, so good.

My biggest concern when adding new tech to our home is the amount of time spent on it. We make sure there is a balance between tech and non-tech activities available to our kids and help them self-regulate so we don’t have to police them. Too much time in front of a screen can turn anyone’s brain to mush. Simple things like getting outside for fresh air, reading a good book, or playing a board game can give anyone an invigorating boost.

Other ways parents keep tech gifts friendly at home include having the child sign a digital contract agreeing to rules and responsibilities, or limiting how long or when a child can use the device. There are also apps that help parents enable parental restrictions or monitor their kids’ activities, such as DijiWise, which makes monitoring social media activity on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, easy for parents.

Giving smartphones and tablets as presents is exciting for both the giver and the receiver. Encouraging digital responsibility at an early age will keep the joy of your gift going for many months and years to come.