When?

How about this? "Not now. Thanks for asking." That's from my new book, Parenting by Snark.

Actually, I am sympathetic to the dilemma young people experience that drives them to crave smartphones. More about that here.

I have already written that I think we're generally giving kids smartphones way ahead of when it is prudent. A better question than when might be how?

How should we, as parents, transition our child into responsible use of such devices?

(1) More and more parents are giving their kids cell phones and other personal digital devices at younger and younger ages. In my opinion this is often a mistake. Because of our concerns about our children's safety, we are giving them phones before they are developmentally ready to use them responsibly.

(2) There is mounting awareness that kids can use cell phones, computers, and other wireless devices in ways that can get them in serious trouble. Also, evidence is mounting that excessive immersion in social media (usually via smartphone, is contributing to our current mental health crisis, which includes soaring rates of depression and suicide in youth. (In fairness, excessive use of social media is also a bad idea for adults.)

(3) Time spent in front of a glowing screen is time NOT spent exercising, reading books, having face-to-face conversations, etc.

In addition to these concerns, some researchers are concerned about what we may eventually learn about the impact of cell phone radiation on developing brains and bodies.

We've all heard about "sexting," texting while driving, cyberbullying, and so on. While parents are often aware of these problems, they often want their children to have cell phones for safety or convenience. It's a dilemma. I've developed a common sense approach. It's offered free. It's customizable, even if that totally may not be the way to spell that word. Parents who think it is too strict for their child can make it looser. Parents who think it's too lenient can make it stricter.

Here's a summary of the program. It is written to apply to cell phones, but you should consider whether you can adapt it for other digital devices.