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New School Year. New Smart Phone. New Ground Rules.

Sep 27, 2017, 10:51 AM

Co-authored by Hilary Schneider, President of LifeLock, Inc.

The start of a new school year comes with new people to meet, new material to learn, new rules to follow and for some kids, new responsibilities like taking care of their first phone or device and diving into a whole new social world online.

Today, kids are getting phones at seemingly younger and younger ages. A new survey commissioned by LifeLock revealed that 30 percent of 9-year-olds have a phone.

Just as we want to ensure children start the new year strong and stay on track to success, we want the same for their participation in the online world. As expectations and goals are set for children for the school year, it is important to also set rules for their use of digital devices and teach them how to be good digital citizens.

In our day jobs at National PTA and LifeLock, we talk a lot about finding a balance between the opportunity to build friendships, learn and have fun using technology and the need to stay safe and develop healthy lifestyles — online and off. But it’s one thing to talk about digital safety and another thing entirely to live it. As parents, we get it. And as business leaders, we think we can help.

National PTA and LifeLock have launched a new, free digital tool called The Smart Talk to help families set ground rules around technology. Our goal is to bring families together to have productive conversations about online behavior, using the latest thinking from best-in-class experts.

The Smart Talk provides an interactive experience that guides kids and parents through a series of questions and conversations about topics such as safety and privacy, screen time, social media, reputation and respect. After agreeing on healthy limits together, a personalized, official family agreement can be stored on the computer or printed and posted at home. We call it “fridge-worthy.”

The survey commissioned by LifeLock also showed that while 79 percent of today’s families have technology agreements with their children, only 6 percent of those are written. The Smart Talk can not only help families formalize rules, but also identify check-in points down the road to update those rules.

It’s a chance to start and build good digital habits, like not bringing the phone to the dinner table or turning off the computer well before bedtime. And for those kids who might get a phone this year, it’s a chance to learn and grow together with their parents.

For more on managing your child’s use of technology or to develop a family technology agreement, visit TheSmartTalk.org and “like” #TheSmartTalk on Facebook.


Nathan R. Monell, CAE is the executive director of National PTA and a proud father of two public school students. Hilary Schneider is president of LifeLock, Inc. and was previously an executive vice president at Yahoo!. National PTA and LifeLock have collaborated to raise awareness and increase understanding of smart and effective practices families can use to foster good digital habits among kids and teens.