Okay, so you’ve given in and gotten your little darlings a cell phone. You aren’t alone by any stretch of the imagination. Over the last several years, the amount of kids who have cell phones has increased exponentially and today nearly 90% of American kids ages 12-17 have a cell phone in their pocket, purse or backpack. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true and kids are taking to this new technology the way kids throughout history have to whatever was the “in” thing of their generation. But, there can be problems with kids have constant access to their friends, texting non-stop and spending hours on facebook with the help of their smart phones. As parents, it’s our job to teach kids both to use this technology responsibly and to set reasonable limits on its use. Here’s the rundown for kids-especially the youngest who are just starting out with phones.
- Set and model limits. This is so important that it might be the only rule of cell phone use for kids. Right from the start, kids should understand that cell phones are for communicating and for entertainment and they don’t need to be used or even available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. As parents, we need to model this behavior by keeping “phone free” times such as after a predetermined time in the evening and definitely during family meals. If the adults are setting a good example, the kids will have an easier time setting their own healthy boundaries and knowing when enough is enough. Keeping all phones in a central location at bedtime can keep your teens and tweens from staying up half the night texting!
- Remember your manners. Kids are way into texting; they’ve even cornered the market on making up their own text language that makes texting both faster and harder for parents to understand. Remind your kids that even though they have this fun phone to play with and friends to chat with, that they still have to use their same manners with you and other adults. “Mom-PMU” (translated as mom, pick me up) won’t work nearly as well as “hey, mom, practice is over. Could you please pick me up?” Don’t let the text lingo take the place of good manners.
- Use your phone for good. Kids are impulsive and there is a lot that can go wrong when you give a kid a phone. Prank calling is the least of today’s parents’ worries. Videos, photos and nasty messages can spread like wildfire with just a few key strokes so it’s important to talk to your kids about what is okay. And, it can’t hurt to tell them that you will be checking the phone periodically just to see what’s going on. A few surprise phone checks is probably all your tween needs to stay on the straight and narrow.
Cell phones are a big responsibility for kids, but with the right help and instruction they will generally rise to the challenge. And, if they don’t-you can be sure that taking the phone away will be an effective punishment.