If you have a child of almost any age, as a parent, you have most likely heard this question, “Can I have a cell phone?”. Approximately 77% of kids ages 12-17 and 56% of kids ages 8-12 have cell phones. Parents are faced with a tough decision. It takes a fair amount of discipline and sense of responsibility to have a cell phone and most kids aren’t ready for that before middle school, and for some into high school. Cell phones are expensive and we worry that access to the internet may not always be safe and appropriate. Also, cell phones cause distractions in school and while driving. On the other hand, cell phones are a great way to communicate with your child, send reminders and help them in an emergency. And, even though we don’t want it to matter, “everyone else has one” can be one of the most important reasons to your child.
If you do decide to get your child a phone, some ground rules can help getting a new phone to be a positive experience to both you and your child.
· A contract may seem a little over the top, but a written contract can help you child understand the rules you are setting and show that you are serious about your rules. Some good rules to follow are: never send a text or photo that you wouldn’t want your parents to see, always ask permission to forward someone’s text or take someone’s photo, if someone asks you to send an inappropriate photo do not send it and alert your parents, if someone sends you an inappropriate photo show your parents and delete it from your phone and block the number, never post your cell phone number on social medial sites, never text or talk on the phone while driving, do not respond to numbers you don’t recognize, do not open texts from numbers you don’t recognize, don’t download apps without your parent’s permission, do not keep your phone in your room overnight so you are not tempted to use your phone late at night, and have phone time-outs to avoid too much screen time.
· Have regular check-ins with your child to review texts, apps, internet searches, etc. so your child knows that you are monitoring their phone and that they are responsible for what they do with their phone.
· Tell your child about the dangers of cell phones. Don’t assume that if you don’t talk about those problems they won’t happen to your child.