The entire world has moved to the cell phone. It’s no longer a convenient tool to speak to someone when you are mobile. Now it is the town square. It’s the place to socialize, it’s the library, the arcade, the TV, the shopping mall, the remote control, etc. Kids know it and feel left out of the world when they don’t have one. So they will tell you that they need one and that everyone has one except them. A kid getting a smart phone today is similar to our generation getting a drivers license. It is releasing them into a whole new world.
Unlike many other parenting topics, you cannot think back to how your parent handled the situation when you were a kid because cell phones were not around yet. Regardless of how old your child is when you decide it is time to give them one, here are 10 rules for kids and cell phones.
1. The Plan
Discuss with your child what their cell phone plan entails. Let them know how many minutes and text messages they have a month. Determine consequences for running over. One idea is to charge them for the price difference.
2. Picture/Video Messages
Let your child know if picture and video messaging is part of your plan. Tell them what is and isn’t appropriate. Discuss and forbid behavior such as sexting and let them know how inappropriate pictures can spread and ruin reputations.
Set rules on downloads. Require your kids to talk to you before downloading something. Use your discretion. There is no rating system for video games for cell phones.
4. Numbers to Avoid
Give your child a list of relatives to call or text sparingly. Also, warn them of incoming calls from unknown numbers who may be trying to get their information.
5. Driving and Cell Phones
Be familiar with the state laws to know if a headset is required for talking on the phone while driving and to know if texting while driving is illegal. Make your own rules for using the cell phone while driving.
6. Cell Phone Etiquette
Share with your child when it is not appropriate to use their cell phone. Examples include, in school, at the movies, on dates, during meals with people (especially family), during tests, at appointments, etc.
7. Cyber Bullying
Stop cyber bullying before it starts. Discuss with your child how painful it is for the victim and how there is no escape from cyber bullying once it starts.
8. Internet Usage
Tell your child if your phone plan covers internet usage or not. If it does, inform your child of any websites or applications you do not want them on.
9. Communicate Clearly
Explain to your child to write clearly over text messaging or if it is an important conversation to use the phone or even better, have it in person. Many conflicts are created using texting through miscommunication.
Today, everyone has their cell phone attached to their ear or to their thumbs. Warn your child of becoming dependent on their cell phone and of becoming so attached they miss what is happening in front of them.