Since the holidays are gift giving at its best, I know a lot of teens and tweens will be receiving cell phones.
Parents, aunts, and uncles…listen up!
Here’s a few important things to consider before gifting a cell phone.
This post is going to make me quite unpopular with the younger crowd, but I’d rather that than have them in danger. As their parent, you should be in this mindset also. If you aren’t, get there…now!
Kids think of their cell phone as personal property so it’s off-limits to moms and dads, right? Wrong.
Think of it more like a car. Here’s the keys. you can use it, but I check the gas and where you’ve taken it.
It’s okay to check what your child’s been texting or tweeting, but tell them upfront they’re subject to snap inspections.
If you want to institute this kind of rule later, after a teen’s had their phone a while, sit down and talk it over with them. You’d be surprised; they’ll probably understand.
Oh, you’ll still get the proverbial shock initially.
“Don’t you trust me?”
Your answer to this? “Honey, cell phones are a tremendous responsibility. I love you too much to put you in danger. I’d feel horrible if anything happened to you because of a gift I gave you.” Practice this sentence two to twenty times (or more) until you’re comfortable with it.
Instead, your child might act the part of the angry rebel. If so, your approach is different.
“Man, you’re such a _________ _________[insert inappropriate names here]!”
Here’s your answer, “Um. I’m sorry you think that. I’ll be keeping your cell phone until you apologize.”
I know. I’ve read the news, too. Being a teen or tween is an emotional rollercoaster. Teens have committed suicide because parents take away cell phones. These poor kids probably were never told no, or how much they were loved and needed. Don’t make this mistake.
If you’re not sure how your teen/tween will respond. hold off on snap inspections, spend more time with your child, and fix the communications problem first.
IDEA: Instead of working an extra two hours every few weeks, take your kid (or kids) to a movie. You won’t need to talk much — the usher will shush you if you do — and you’ll toss a huge wrench into your kids’ work-is-more-important-than-me mentality.
Set it up like a date. “Hey, Sam. How about I pick you up from school, and we go out for pizza and a movie next Thursday?”
Schedule it just like you would a business meeting or you’ll be tempted to skip it. And don’t be shy about telling co-workers or your boss you have a date with your kid. Your idea might just rub off on them. If the boss is less than enthusiastic, tell them even though you can’t work late tonight, you’ll be in early tomorrow.
You won’t believe the awesome dividends time with your kid pays. FYI: the next installment of The Hobbit comes out December 17. You can get tickets in advance any time. 😀
When is a kid old enough for a cell phone?
It’s more about responsibility and maturity levels than an actual age number.
Lori Evans, MD, director of training in psychology at the NYU Child Study Center, says. “Look for the developmental signs. Does your child lose his belongings? Is he generally a responsible kid? Can you trust him? Will he understand how to use the phone safely? The rate at which kids mature varies — it will even be different among siblings.”
What kind of phone to buy?
Younger children need only the basics: no texts, internet access, games, etc. For now, their phone is about safety, not socializing. If you’re handing down your old phone, turn off these features.
Older children (a.k.a. high schoolers) can be allowed more bells and whistles.
Tips for Parents with “Cell Phone Kids”
Follow me here. I have a lot of tips, but they are all important. Don’t be afraid.
Tip One: Cell Phone Station
Station a basket or a cell phone charging center in a public area of your home. If you set it up by the front door noone forgets the phones when they leave.
Everyone — e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e., you too Mom and Dad — puts their powered-down cell phones in the basket for the night. Or if it’s a charging station, plugs them in.
Why? Cell phones taken to the bedrooms encourage texting and talking when adults and children should be sleeping. Did you know sleep-deprived drivers are as dangerous or worse than drunk drivers? Now you do.
The only exception is a parent who is a nurse, doctor, firefighter, policeman, or other life-saving career person. They can keep their phone near at night, but not too near. See Tip Six.
By the way, life-saving career parents, thanks. 🙂
Tip Two: No GPS Tracker
Skip the GPS tracker on the phone. Unless your kids have shown dangerous and untrustworthy behavior, you don’t need it.
If it were me, I’d let them know I trust them enough to not use phone GPS; you’d be surprised at the child’s self-esteem boost. The downside of this is a lot of stolen phones have been located due to GPS. Talk it over with your kid. Decide together.
Tip Three: Be a Role Model
Be your kids’ number one role model. If you don’t check your texts or messages during __________ [fill in the blank: dinner, theatre, store], they won’t either.
Tip Four: Define Acceptable Actions
Kids are all about rules. They need guidelines. Help them out and give them some.
- No gossiping. Gossiping is anything meant to hurt someone else whether it’s true or not.
- No cyberbullying.
- No talking to strangers…even if they sound nice.
- No sending inappropriate photos of themselves to anyone.
- No sending or posting photos of others without their permission.
Why? Sometimes kids don’t have the loving family yours does. A non-custodial parent might steal a child if they knew where they were. With court approval, these children’s locations are kept secret. They’re in kind of a witness relocation program, only for kids.
Tip Five: Set Limits
Set texting limits, talking limits, any limits you see fit. If your teen goes over the agreed limits, let him or her pay the extra cost. Actually, standard — in my mind there are no normal people, only standard and non-standard — high schoolers should be able to pay for all or some of their phone bill unless you have a reward system worked out, like grades for phones.
Tip Six: Limit Radiation Exposure
This tip goes in the “Better Safe Than Sorry” column. Even though the studies are controversial, cell phones do give off a certain amount of radiation, no matter how slight. It’s best to keep radiation exposure to heads and reproductive organs to a minimum.
- Use headsets. There are wired or wireless/bluetooth.
- Don’t let your kids sleep with their phones under their pillows. See Tip One.
- Don’t carry phones in front pockets. Studies show radiation can affect reproductive organs.
Tip Seven: Cyberbullying
Social interaction can be a positive thing. It can also be incredibly destructive. Cyberbullying is a real threat to our children. Many beautiful and talented teens have taken their own lives because they were cyberbullied to the point of no return.
Make certain you tell your kids how much you love them often and how important they are to family and friends. And ask periodically if they’re being harassed or sent nasty text messages. Then do something about it. Don’t ignore it. Sometimes a child can think they’re being bullied when it’s not the case, but the impact on that child’s mental health is no less real. Take it seriously.
Tip Seven A:
Parents! Pay Attention! Watch for signs your children are cyberbullies. Even sweet little Suzy can bully someone else when she thinks nobody is looking. Unfortunately, sometimes anonymity turns even nice people into unrecognizable beings. And no, Suzy’s not a horrible person. She just needs some guidance. See Tip Four.
Check out my blog post on The True Faces of Cyberbullying.
Tip Eight: Texting Jargon
I’m not accusing your child of doing these, but the best prepared parent is a well-informed parent. Watch out for these acronyms and codes.
- CD9 = Code 9 = Parents around
- PIR = Parent in room
- POS = Parent over shoulder
- 9 = Parent watching
- 99 = Parent(s) gone or not watching
- KPC = Keeping parent(s) clueless
- CID or 420 = codes for drugs
- ADDY = address
- N usually means ‘naked’. GNOC = Get naked on camera; NIFOC = Naked in front of camera; IPN = I’m posting naked.
- PRON = porn (FYI: Don’t freak out about this. Read the sentence and take it in context. Kids benignly joke about things adults wouldn’t with each other a lot. Hey, they’re kids.)
- (L)MIRL = Let’s meet in real life
- TWD Texting while driving
I’ve left the most important — life and death — issue to last: texting while driving.
Tip Nine: Absolutely NO texting and driving…for a.n.y.o.n.e.
I’m simply going to ask you to watch this video, then you’ll understand. The video is promoted on Facebook by Kunhadi, a Lebanese non-profit organization concerned with road safety.
If the video isn’t cooperating, you can find it here: Texting While Driving
I hope this blog has prepared you a little bit better for cell phones in the life of your child. More than likely, your parents never had to contend with this issue. You’re breaking new and exciting ground. Do it responsibly.
Today’s assignment: When you see your child next, tell them how important they are to you and others. Then say, “I love you.” It’s not that tough. Look at a picture of your kid and practice saying “I love you” to it five to twenty times until you are comfortable. Try it right now. 😉
CAUTION: If your child has disabilities, chill out and approach them as is best for their situation. If you haven’t been the parent addressing their needs, talk it over with that person first.
Do not…I repeat, do not ride in like Wyatt Earp thinking you’ll clean up Dodge City. Never has, and never will, work. You’ll just make matters worse. Been there, lived that.
If you want to make a difference in your child’s life, now is a great time to start. See the idea at the top of this blog. Psst. It’s by the alligator.
Have a safe and happy holiday season, and thanks again for following Patti’s Pathways. 😀
DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own. Any health related advice is what seems logical to me after research and investigation. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any medical degrees or certificates related to nutrition, psychological, pharmaceutical, or medical health.
I received a wonderful endorsement on this post in the form of a Facebook share from a friend of mine who has a psychology degree.
“Parents of teens and Tweens and/or counseling professionals,
One of my closest life-long friends has written an excellent and informative article regarding cell phones for teens.
She gives a lot of good boundary setting ideas and preventive examples on what to think about and how to implement rules with your teen. In summary, it gives parents support and guidance on what to expect with today’s norm of cell phone purchases for younger Tweens and teens.
Jane R.Hart, MS”