“Mom, Dad, I really need a cellphone.” If you haven’t heard this statement, it’s coming. Recent stats reveal that 75% of teens (12-17) have cellphones. The teenage years seem to be the prime age that parents give `their children a phone.
When will you give your child a cellphone or another mobile device? Have you thought about this question? Have you considered how you will answer and parent through it?
Here are three tips to consider as you navigate through the process:
1. Adopt family technology guidelines.
As parents, decide on guidelines and boundaries for how technology will be used in your home. Think, pray and talk about your expectations before handing your child a cellphone or mobile device. Communicate the guidelines from the beginning. This will help everyone walk forward with a clear understanding of the shared values, expectations and consequences.
It’s also vital that you not only set clear guidelines but that you model the behavior you expect. If you check your phone at every red light, you are saying that it’s okay to fill every empty moment by consuming something from the online world. If you don’t want your child on their cellphone during dinner or other quality family time, you must be willing to put your phone away, as well.
One great thing that can come from the responsibility of a cellphone is a rite of passage. You can use the moment as a milestone and teaching opportunity, a significant step toward maturity and adulthood. Make it a special moment by taking your child out to dinner and talking through the expectations that come with the new device.
Just a quick Google search will bring up dozens of great cellphone rules and guidelines that you can adapt and fashion into your own.
2. Be the first word on everything.
Access to the Internet opens doors to many things, especially sex and relationships. Don’t take the risk of your child being introduced to something for the first time because you haven’t already discussed or introduced the topic. There is a unique authority that accompanies the person who first introduces and educates someone on a given topic. Don’t wait for someone else to be that person. Be the first word to your child.
If you unlock the door to the Internet and social media, consider what your child might purposefully or accidentally be exposed to and warn them of it. Open the door to conversation and confession by telling your child to come to you and tell you if they come across anything explicit, pornographic or questionable. Share that your hope is not to punish but, instead, to provide a safe place to run to when temptation or danger comes.
3. Be in your child’s world.
Know what your child is doing, saying and experiencing online. Be clear and firm about your intentions to monitor online and cellphone activity. This takes time and work. I recently spoke to a parent who spends nearly 30 minutes every night going through her child’s cellphone activity. Yes, it’s time consuming, but she has her child present during the entire process and sees it as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship. They talk through each text and post, and the mom has a window into the heart of her child that she might not have otherwise.
A common objection that children give their parents to this rule is that they feel their privacy is threatened. To be honest, it’s not really an issue of privacy because there is nothing private about social media and the Internet. They are really just trying to have a place where they are outside of your authority and supervision. If they honestly want a venue or opportunity for privacy, give them an old-fashioned journal or diary. Be firm about your intentions to monitor everything they do online.