Letter to the editor: Be a responsible parent — give your kid a smartphone and teach them to use it well

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To the editor:

First of all, I love Grace’s letter.

She is of the viewpoint of a typical 10-year-old; she’s smart and makes a very good argument. Her points are so valid.

I have an 18-year-old and got him a phone when he was about 8 or 9. I was a single mom and commuting. I thought it would be best so we could communicate pickups, drop-offs, etc. I got him a phone that was strictly a phone. I don’t even know if they make them anymore.

I know you can limit usage and content, which I would definitely suggest as an option. I think this is the way of the world. And there’s just no escaping it.

It’s the job of the parents to teach our children about the world. Lots of talks about social media, online predators, keeping information private and safety is a must. Communication must be open. Checking usage and content with them and without them and letting them know that’s part of the deal and there are no secrets around it. This sets up and models open communication so that when they need you or have questions, they will come to you.

It’s such a lead-in to those tricky teen years and you can start at 10. It’s almost a gift.

Use it as an opportunity to have a talk about getting older, the world is getting bigger and you’re going to have to make good choices when we’re not always around. By the way, this also works the opposite way. Parent to child. If you have open communication and find liquor in their room, you want to be able to go to them and ask them what’s happening. They will need to negotiate so many things in life, and it’s easier with our guidance.

Teaching them healthy boundaries with phones, social media, people, friends, drinking. It all goes together.

I used mine as a reward system, too. You need to be responsible with it or it gets taken away. I got a cheap one, because kids always lose things. “We can talk about upgrades the more responsible you become,” I would say. It is important for them to have a healthy relationship with it as well as learning autonomy.

Parenting is a constant negotiation. Just last night when we were heading to a decent restaurant, I asked my son to change his basketball jersey to a T-shirt. You know? Something with sleeves perhaps? He gave me a very convincing argument as to why it was totally appropriate and even “classy.”

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“It’s a classic, 1991-1992 Denver Nuggets Dikembe Mutombo jersey, Mom!!”

I congratulated him on such a beautiful argument and then he changed the shirt as we laughed about it.

Having discussions with our kids about sex and drugs and online predators might not be very fun, but it is necessary. We can’t keep them 3 years old and innocent forever. They will make their way into the world with tools or not.

I’d rather mine have the tools he needs to figure out how to manage the pitfalls and complexities of life. His life is too precious to me to avoid giving him the adequate tools he needs to succeed.

I’d be neglectful if I didn’t do that.

Thanks for reading.

Beth Chiarelli
Santa Cruz