Cell phones are now such an integral part of kids’ lives. According to research 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14) own a cell phone. Cell phones have their good side and their bad side.
The Upside to Cell Phones
Safety: The benefits of cell phones in emergency situations are undisputed.
Convenience: No one can argue the convenience of being able to reach your child immediately, or a child being able to reach his parent, in the case of a sudden change of plans.
The Downside of Cell Phones
Bullying: Text messaging is increasing used by bullies to torment their victims.
Eye strain and "digital thumb": Just like other repetitive strain injuries that can result from computer use and other repetitive tasks, these conditions can result from focusing continually on a small screen and typing on small buttons.
Lack of sleep: Some teen cell phone users are likely to be woken at night by incoming text messages or calls, and are therefore more likely to be tired and less able to focus throughout the day.
Some rules to consider:
Parents and children, however need to understand what cell phones can offer us as well as the possible dangers involved. It is important for parents to set limits to guide and protect our kids, here are some items to consider.
No calls or texting after bedtime. She can either turn it off, leave it in a common area of the house, or let her know that you will be checking the bill for time stamps. As the parent of a child who already suffers lots of sleep disturbance, I will be paying especially close attention to this rule.
If your cell phone plan has peak and off-peak hours, make sure your child knows any expectations you have about when calls can be made.
If you want your child to access the wireless Internet capabilities? Web sites intended for cell phones are even harder to filter than regular Internet pages. If you are not comfortable with this, then forbid internet access on your tweenÃÔ phone by either removing the capabilities or talking it over with your tween.
If your child's phone has a camera or video feature, make sure you discuss safety rules regarding picture and video uploading.
If your child is driving, make sure she knows that it is never acceptable to talk or text while driving. Many states have passed laws to make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving. Our state, North Carolina, has banned texting while driving.
Teach your kids to answer calls only from people they know: cell phones are becoming a vehicle not only for bullying, but also for sexual predators and for scams.
Teach your child when and where to use his/her cell phone. Predators will take advantage of the distraction of texting or talking. Texting while walking down a dark street at night probably isnÃÕ the best idea, but then again, neither is the dark street.
Absolutely no sexting! Parents, it is your responsibility to discuss sexting with your child. It is important that you discuss this practice with your child and let them know in no uncertain terms that it is not allowed and will not be tolerated.
Don't disclose private information. You never know who is listening.
It is also important that you teach your child cell phone etiquette. I know adults who donÃÕ follow most etiquette rules, such as:
Tweens should keep text messages short and to_the_point. If a "conversation" goes on for more than a few minutes, encourage your tween to pick up the phone and continue the conversation that way.
Tweens should understand that they should never, ever, text one friend while they're spending time with another. That's rude and can make for hurt feelings.
Teach your tween to refrain from texting a friend when they're in a fight or are angry with one another. Things can be put into writing that are hard to get over.
Tweens should know that sometimes text messages are misunderstood because the recipient of the message can't see the sender's facial expressions or hear her tone of voice. Jokes and sarcastic comments may cause hard feelings if they're passed along in a text message.
Tweens should know that they should never give bad news in a text message.
Tweens should understand that they are responsible for what they text to other people. Teach your child to refrain from gossiping about others, trashing others, and being unkind in general.
Discuss appropriate circumstances, places and uses for cell phones with your child. For example, tell your child that the cell phone ringer should not be turned on while in a movie theater and of course should not be answered either. If a call comes through which must be answered, they should leave the theater and answer it in a hallway.
Your child should refrain from texting in class, at church, at dinner, at the movies, at a friend's birthday party, at a funeral, or in other public settings. The same applies if your family is going out for a nice meal or is involved in a family activity together.
Don't talk loudly into your cell phone _ you will be overhead by anyone nearby and it will be too loud for the person on the other end.
Mom and Dad, please remember that you need to check your childÃÔ cell phone and activity regularly. Do not warn your child in advance or check the cell phone at the same time every week as that will give them an opportunity to clean the contents. Random checks will allow you to read the text messages going out or coming in as well as to see what pictures are being sent and received. Though it may be perceived by your child as an invasion of their privacy, explain that is not your intent. It isnÃÕ that you distrust your child; you are only trying to protect them. If this is always the rule from a young age and treated matter_of_factly, then privacy may never even become an issue. If it is an issue, then your tween may just have to deal with it. Whether or not you pay the bill, or bought the phone, you are their parent and have every right to take whatever steps are necessary to protect your child.
Cell Phone Contract
Another really interesting concept that I came across was creating a cell phone contract between you and your tween. This is an excellent way to teach your child about the responsibilities that come with having a cell phone. If you choose to do one, be sure you go over every item in your contract, giving your child the opportunity to ask questions.
See below for a sample that I plan to have my daughter sign:
Your Family Cell Phone Contract: A Cell Phone Contract
This contract between Dad and Mom and Child seeks to establish family rules and consequences regarding cell phone usage.
Cell Phone Contract: Tween Responsibilities
I will not send threatening or mean texts to others
I will not text or place phone calls after 8:00 p.m.
I will keep my phone charged at all times
I will not bring my cell phone to the dinner table
I will not go over our plan's monthly minutes. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or may lose my phone privileges
I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition
I understand that my cell phone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.
I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cell phones. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church and on vibrate in restaurants, or quiet settings
I will obey any rules my school has regarding cell phones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus
I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don't know
I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cell phone
I will not use my cell phone to bully another
I understand that having a cell phone can be helpful in an emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger
I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone's camera to take embarrassing photos of others
I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked
Cell Phone Contract: Parent Responsibilities
I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cell phone and using it responsibly
I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text that she has received
I will alert my child if our cell phone plan changes and impacts the planÃÔ minutes
I am not required to give my child any warning before I take her cell phone away.
Signed ______________________________ (Tween)
Signed ______________________________________________________ (Parents)