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Smartphones enable an incredible level of access as communications tools for phone calls, messaging and apps that connect with the wider world. Snapping and sharing photos, playing games and engaging in social media are but a few examples. It’s not easy to regulate all aspects of how kids use these devices, but as in life, proper etiquette is important.

There is no surefire book on teaching kids the etiquette and manners associated with kids using smartphones. It’s always a work in progress, and hopefully these tips on find a practical use for your kids.

Time Management

downloadOlder generations grew up with the TV as the dominant form of entertainment at home. Today, smartphones and tablets often capture kids’ attention.

So, how do you manage the amount of time they have with a phone or tablet? What types of activity are acceptable for kids of varying ages?

Establishing those guidelines is often a daily exercise until habits set in, and where screen time can depend on the activity. Like TV in the past, YouTube is today’s equivalent of channel-surfing, where videos on virtually any subject are ready to consume. YouTube Kids caters to younger children, and while it can be very efficient at keeping them occupied, you may want to impose some limits.

Or, you can try spreading out the activities. Kids can play educational games or exercises through different apps to help them develop skills. It’s great to encourage that, only too much close-quarters exposure to these high-res displays is not good in large doses.

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Don’t be loud

No one really likes someone speaking loudly while on the phone in public. Grown-ups do it all the time, and it’s often seen as being inconsiderate to others. A pair of headphones or a softer tone could mitigate that. It’s exactly the kind of example kids can learn from at a younger age.

Try to avoid playing music and games loudly, especially in public places where you might bother or irritate other people. It’s important to be considerate to people around you, and kids can follow your lead when engaging with others as well.

Be mindful when taking pictures and videos

Smartphones are now the most common cameras people carry with them. Anyone can capture amazing photos and videos with the advanced features and controls available on these devices. There’s power in that, and it comes with courtesy and responsibility. You can teach kids that it’s not always okay to take photos of strangers without asking permission.

Younger users love selfies, but they may not always pay attention to their surroundings. Unfortunately, people have injured themselves or lost their lives by attempting selfies in silly situations and dangerous conditions. Kids minding their surroundings would be able to avoid hurting themselves or others that way.

All it takes is a little care and preparation. Position oneself properly to take photos not only results in nicer looking photos or videos, it ensures shooters are safe.

Use passwords and security features

It’s not hard to misplace or lose a smartphone. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but it’s true. The potential data breach of an unprotected phone is a teaching moment for all kids. Teaching them to use the password feature or a biometric lock, like a fingerprint sensor, is a good first step. In case a phone is lost or stolen, critical information can still be safe from prying eyes or would-be hackers.

Kids are inquisitive, and naturally look to tinker with gadgets, so they can easily master their parents’ smartphones, tablets and other devices. Keep yours private and away from prying eyes with the features available to you. The latest iPhones and Android phones often have built-in fingerprint sensors, whereas some use facial recognition too. It only takes around five minutes to set it up and makes the device more secure without requiring a password.

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No phones at the table

It’s not unusual for technology to be a source of alienation, especially when smartphones are so common. A good rule to encourage social interaction and engagement for kids is to enforce a “no phones or tech at the table” during family meals. It’s a great chance to catch up about the day’s events, or touch on a subject open for discussion for the family.

Kids may not have emails the way you do as an adult, but messages and social media are an obvious temptation. It’s hard to avoid responding but save for a real emergency, it can probably wait. It’s an exercise in patience that adults and kids can learn all at once.

Use ‘do not disturb’ instead of vibrate

There are many instances where ringing or even vibrating phones are a distraction. Religious services, classrooms and hospitals come to mind as places where smartphone noise is often distracting or disrespectful.

People like to use vibrate because it’s more discreet, but it can still be problematic, especially in situations when someone is speaking. “Do not disturb” is a common feature on a smartphone, where it silences the device completely.

That’s important while driving. Too many accidents happen because drivers are distracted by calls or messages. Young drivers can leave the phone in do not disturb mode or turn it off completely to keep their eyes and focus on the road.

There is no surefire book on teaching kids the etiquette and manners associated with kids using smartphones. It’s always a work in progress, and hopefully these tips on find a practical use for your kids.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.