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New year, New phones for kids, New help for parents

After months of begging, you gave in and bought your child their first smartphone. Common Sense Media says 42% of kids have a phone by the time they’re 10. By 14, that number is 91%.

Giving a child a phone opens them up to a whole new world – one they can connect with any time, from anywhere. That can be a great thing, but every parent knows that also comes with a big responsibility.

To help your child navigate their new independence and to give you some peace of mind, here are five simple smartphone tips:

Start with the basics

Create an open dialogue with your child. Start by asking them what they already know and build from there. Things like phone safety features and how to create an ICE (in case of emergency) contact. This way, if they have an emergency, first responders will know who to call.

Set boundaries

Start good habits early. Having a few pre-determined and accepted rules for when and where your child can be on their device is key. Consider a “no phone” dinner or “phone free” time to create more family time.

Additionally, activating parental controls can help enforce screen time limits if rules are not followed. On AT&T ScreenReady, you can create a personalized family media plan to help set media priorities that matter most to your family.

Digital privacy & safety

You may want to opt out of things like location sharing on apps or allowing those apps to post to social media sites. The same goes for video games. You can use a combination of tools like privacy settings and flagging inappropriate content in your conversations about online behavior. You can also turn on browser filters, which will block explicit images, videos, and websites.


Appropriate use of a cell phone in today’s world requires responsibility and forethought like never before. Have a conversation with your child about different scenarios that could arise. For example, snapping and sharing photos at a swim meet, school (if allowed), or alone with friends. Help them understand nuance and meaning.


  • Be respectful, both to the people you're texting with and those around you.
  • Be careful. Assume that even private texts can become public.


  • Verify the caller. Don't respond to numbers you don't know.
  • Always answer the phone when it's a parent or caregiver.

Taking pictures and videos

  • Ask permission before you snap someone's picture, take a video, or share anything.
  • Inappropriate spaces include bathrooms and locker rooms.
  • Don't publicly embarrass people. Don't post someone's photo or video—especially an unflattering one—without their permission.

Apps and downloads

  • Apps, games, music, and in-app upgrades can cost real money. Establish family rules about purchases and downloads.


  • Think before you post. Be very choosy about what you post from your phone.
  • Be safe. Sharing private information and using location services can be risky.

Be a good role model

Research shows parents and caregivers play a powerful role in influencing kids’ tech use. So that habit of checking our phone every 15 minutes (at least, let’s be honest) is being noticed and learned as normal behavior. And then it is mimicked. Consider adopting a healthier media diet for the new year.

It’s a balancing act between allowing a child enjoyment of their new, constant companion to connectivity, while helping them understand its boundaries and potential risks. This includes teaching responsible usage, emphasizing the importance of digital etiquette, setting clear guidelines for device use, and encouraging offline activities to promote a well-rounded lifestyle that prioritizes their overall well-being and development.

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