Picture: Max Pixel

Each year, more parents send their young child to primary school equipped with a smartphone.

A study of approximately 4 500 primary school children in the US found that having a cellphone in primary school was associated with being involved with both bullying and cyberbullying, both as a bully and as a bully/victim. A “bully/victim” is a child who is, at different times, both a bully and a victim of bullying.

Kids can learn to use cellphones safely, and there are practical steps that parents can take to minimize their young child’s odds of involvement in bullying and cyberbullying, along with cellphone practices that can help ensure the overall well-being of their child.

Here are a few tips:

1. Establish ownership

The phone is not your child’s – it’s yours. Thus, you always have the right to look at it. By checking your child’s phone, you may detect messages or posts that can suggest involvement in bullying or cyberbullying. A 2012 MacAfee study found that half of kids changed their online behavior if they believed their parents were checking.

2. Take cellphones out of dinnertime

Family dinners helped protect kids from bullying. Dinnertime can be a time to connect emotionally, even when no conversations of deep importance take place. It can also be a time to discuss challenges and difficulties, and to debate solutions and strategies, with input from the people who love you. Unfortunately, family dinners can be easily interrupted by notifications or messaging from cell phones. For that reason, a “no devices” rule at the dinner table can help promote family connections that are protective against bullying.

3. Limit use during homework

Listening to music can be OK, but watching videos and TV shows or playing games shouldn’t happen while homework is being completed. Studies that look at multi-tasking agree that it degrades memory, learning and cognitive performance.

4. Don’t allow use before bedtime

It’s been well documented that bright screens right before bed can delay or interrupt sleep patterns. Sleep problems, in turn, have been linked to becoming involved in bullying. To promote healthy sleep and reduce the odds of bullying, help your child practice good sleep preparation habits by putting away digital devices an hour before bedtime. If they want to read from their device, use an app that has a UVB filter or dim and “flip” the screen to a black background.

To help your child stay asleep, devices should be kept outside the bedroom overnight. Even if your child intends to sleep, a buzzing sound or vibration can wake him or her up. It can represent a strong temptation to send messages, chat or play games.

5. Set a good example as a driver

Encouraging kids to put down the phone when they are in a car can literally be a lifesaving habit that can begin in primary school. A review of statistics noted that cell phone use is the second-leading cause of distracted driving. To lessen the risks of this happening in the future, parents can teach young children to not use their device in the front seat of the car; it can be a place to talk, instead of a place to text.

6. Instill responsibility

Carrying a cellphone isn’t a right – it’s a privilege. As a parent, encourage responsible cellphone use by linking digital privileges with responsibilities. Show children how to budget internet time. Teach your kids that discussing social problems is part of being mature enough to carry a cellphone. And consider having your kids pitch in around the house to “earn” their digital privileges.

Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology, and the Director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), Bridgewater State University

This article is republished from The Conversation 

The Conversation

The Conversation