It’s Time for the Smart Talk

By Erin Thwaites

With so many kids getting smartphones—even as early as nine or 10 years old—it’s never been more important to establish safe and responsible digital habits. We’re raising a generation of digital citizens, and there’s no way around it.

Having access to worldwide communication and a bounty of information at your fingertips has many benefits, but it also comes with more risks and potential pitfalls. This is why having a conversation with your child about digital safety and citizenship is so important.

The Smart Talk allows you to set ground rules with your child now, so you don’t have regrets later. There are so many different aspects to cover. Where do you start? Fortunately, it’s never been easier to navigate this conversation and create an agreement with your child about how to use technology responsibly.

The Smart Talk is an online tool developed in partnership between National PTA and LifeLock. The Smart Talk guides parents through a series of interactive questions with their children to inspire open dialogues about their online behaviors.

Through this dialogue, parents and their children can build and customize an agreement. Parents who have used The Smart Talk with their children are often surprised by not only how much they learn about digital safety, but also how much they learn about their child’s current online activities.

“What I liked about The Smart Talk is that it was a negotiation—not a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead of dictating the rules, I got to lead the conversation and offer input while the tool let my son do the actual driving,” said Michael, a parent.

Did you know?

  • 75% of children eight and under have access to some sort of smart mobile device at home
  • 68% of teens text everyday
  • 51% of teens visit social networking sites daily

In answering the guiding questions in the tool, you explore conversations that may not normally come up in daily chats with your kids.

As you navigate each topic area, there are links to further reading and helpful hints such as how to create stronger passwords and determining whether a social media site is appropriate for your child’s age. After you finalize your answers for each topic area (social media, screen time, etc.), you can print and sign your very own The Smart Talk Family Agreement. Hang it on your refrigerator so that no one “forgets” the ground rules.

To have The Smart Talk with your child, go to today! Follow The Smart Talk on Facebook for more exciting updates.

7 Questions to Ask Before Giving Your Child Their First Phone

  1. Does your child show a sense of responsibility, such as letting you know when they leave the house? Do they show up when they say they will?
  2. Does your child tend to lose things, such as backpacks or homework folders?
  3. Does your child need to be able to contact you at any time for safety reasons?
  4. Would having easy access to friends benefit your child for social reasons?
  5. Do you think your child will use cell phones responsibly—for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
  6. Can your child adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  7. Will your child use text, photo and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?

Erin Thwaites is the associate manager for health and safety at National PTA.

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