My 12-year-old loves Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.
And though I’m the mom who puts off buying my child a cell phone as long as possible, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
See, for the last year, I’ve let my youngest share my phone. She follows people on my Instagram like her friends from youth group. She sends selfies and cat pictures on Snapchat to her big sister in California and brother in New York. And she’s learning to bake cakes and make every variation of slime imaginable from YouTube.
I’m well aware of the cell phone’s dangers: the possible places it could take my child and the people she might connect with. But I’m learning, along with my daughter, that the cell phone also has incredible benefits. I want her to see those and use them. Let’s look at 10 ways your child can use the cell phone for good.
1. Check-in with parents.
This one’s critical. The cell phone allows us to find our children, see where they are and check in with them. If plans change, our teens can check with us first. If there’s a school lockdown or highway accident, we can quickly determine whether our kids are safe. On Android phones, use the Family Link app to track your child and the Find My iPhone app on iPhone.
2. Get a parental rescue.
Scenario #1: my child’s at the neighbors and his friend pulls up a movie. We’ve asked our kids to call first and ask permission to watch movies. Scenario #2: my daughter’s at a party and her ride home becomes sketchy. She can call in a rescue rather than risk a questionable ride home.
3. Encourage a friend.
When my husband passed away, my daughter’s friends texted her encouragement for months. My sons also had people checking in with them. Your child can use her phone to encourage a friend with pictures, prayers or pick-me-ups.
Your child can use her phone to encourage a friend with pictures, prayers or pick-me-ups.
4. Learn something new.
Do your kids need to fix the mower? Want to practice a foreign language? Make (and sell) every variation of slime imaginable? Cell phones allow our kids to access information like never before through tutorials, blogs, and videos. YouTube needs to be monitored, but the web has plenty of free how-to videos on pbs.org, foodnetwork.com, marthastewart.com and more.
5. Find and follow real heroes.
One of the first accounts my daughter followed is Bethany Hamilton. Bethany lost her arm in a shark attack while surfing but faced her fear and limitations to get back in the water and become a pro surfer. She’s a devoted mom and wife who advocates strong family values. Encourage your kids to find and follow real heroes.
6. Call grandparents, cousins and extended family.
While tweens and teens can become peer-focused, regular calls to their grandparents or special aunts and uncles help them focus on family. Calls and Facetime can help cousins who live miles apart stay connected. It’s one more way to build strong family relationships, develop family loyalty and teach them to be other-oriented.
7. Track their habits.
Want to drink more water? Read more or work-out consistently? Cell phones make it easy to track habits our kids want to start or stop. Look for free habit-tracker apps and set up reminders on the phone’s calendar. If you need a paper copy of your kids’ habit tracker, download one here.
8. Study smarter.
Cell phones have a plethora of resources like a dictionary, thesaurus, and a calculator. But they can also help students develop vocabulary, check grammar, learn history, study algebra, prep for the ACT and more.
9. Read a book.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling while waiting in line or after-class downtime, our kids could be reading a good book. I’ve read lots of books on my phone while waiting and my kids and I have listened to even more on audio. Most libraries also make e-books available for lending. Tip: Sarah Mackenzie, a read-aloud enthusiast, has curated these great family read-aloud lists by age.
10. Get a daily devotion.
This is my favorite. Cell phones make it easy to start our day with a devotion (like Proverbs 31’s First5) or access a teen devotional (like the free Awake My Soul app). Our kids can also access one of more than 150 Bible reading plans on their phones.
What’s your favorite way to use your cell phone for good?