“Mo-om! I need a smart phone! I’m the only kid in class that doesn’t have one!!!”
Have you heard this before??? But it is true, that to keep your kids safe and to be able to reach them, it takes a cellphone. So how do you determine the right time or age to let your child have a phone? Here are some tips from author, Ava Pennington, that I am passing along to help you out, Peace Parents! First things first, while you may view the phone as a tool, your kids view it as a status symbol and ticket to acceptance by peers. But do they have the maturity to handle it? Even Bill Gates thinks 8 is too young and did not let his own daughter have one until she was 13. Make sure your kids know these things:
- Privacy does NOT exist. A photo taken by a friend in the locker room can easily be sent school-wide. Private texts can quickly become public with the click of a button. A good rule would be to never send a text, message or photo that you wouldn’t want your parents to see.
- Bad guys DO exist. And they don’t always wear black hats and sport handlebar mustaches. Warn them about: Cyber-bullying, which includes stalking through texts, and displays of photos your kids never gave permission to use. Inappropriate pictures or videos can be more than just embarrassing. What seems like a funny joke can have permanent consequences. Apps may seem innocent enough but nothing is free…not even a FREE APP.
- Boundaries will be established. Without them your kids will be at risk. Establish ‘no phone zones’ including homework time and after bedtime. Texting caps. Going beyond the plans’ minute and text caps will result in consequences. One way to avoid this is with a prepaid plan. The first few times they hit the limit will teach them restraint more effectively than any lecture. And no phone while driving. NONE. Surveys show 45-75% of teens admit to texting while driving.
- Oversight will be practiced. Since you are paying for the phone, your child should understand they do not have an expectation of privacy. You have every right to check their phone. They may feel this is a ‘violation of their privacy’ but 41% of teens admit to having sent or received an inappropriate text. Let them know the monthly bill will be checked to see if they are erasing messages. Remember, their phone gives them full access to the internet.
- Avoid a false sense of security. Exercise good judgement. ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ is just as valid on the phone as it is face to face. Identity can be discovered even if the app claims privacy is assured. A smartphone is not automatic protection from danger. They might believe if trouble occurs they will simply use their phone to call for help. But even if they do have access to their phone, help may not arrive in time. Better to not enter the situation at all.
There you go, Peace Parents. We hope this helps you navigate this new era of technology and your kids.