For many parents, giving their child their first cell phone can be intimidating. Unlike driving, there’s no set age for teens to start having access to their own cell phones. The right time to get a cell phone is different for every student, but once your student has one how can you ensure that they stay safe? From social media apps, to internet access, to unlimited texting capabilities, it can feel overwhelming for parents. So, we asked 5 experts to share their best tips parents can use for keeping kids safe before and after giving them their first phone.
Set up clear guidelines for all phone useJohn DeGarmo, The Foster Care Institute, @DrJohnDeGarmo
Check your child’s phone nightly to see who is reaching out to them, and who they are reaching out to. Remember, you are not your child’s friend, you are their parent, and you are protecting them from predators and others who seek to harm them in some way. Become involved in your child’s life, interests, and activities – both online and offline.
Be persistent in warning their children about dangerous and inappropriate sites. Protective filters and browsers should be in place, helping to block your child from accessing these sites. Set up clear guidelines for all phone use with your child, and post these as a consistent reminder. Closely monitor your child’s online actions, as well as their cell phone for any disturbing messages, texts, and pictures. Let him know you will be doing so.
Remind your student not to believe everything that comes across the phone. Teach your child to bring to your attention any site or contact that might be suspicious in nature. Keep credit card details somewhere safe where children can’t access them, and make sure not to save credit card details online. Make sure that ‘click to buy’ options are not activated. Lastly, teach your child about the realities and dangers of child predators who prowl the internet, looking to target children.
Set a good exampleJulia Cook, Parenting Expert
Before getting your child their first cell phone, ask yourself “Does my child “need” a cell phone, or do they just “want” one? Make sure you set a good cell phone user example for your child. (You cannot expect your child to not text and drive if they see you do it etc..)
For younger children: Avoid phones with texting or IM capabilities. Program in all names and numbers that are important for your child to know. Discourage your child from answering numbers that he/she does not recognize. Thoroughly discuss how, when, and why the phone should be used.
For older children: Reinforce the how, when and why the phone should be used. Always expect your child to answer calls from you. Make sure the phone is turned off at night. Strongly discourage cell phone use during meal time and other family together times. Purchase the texting plan that works best for your family. Monitor your child’s text messages, phone calls, and times of usage. Have your child review your cell phone bill with you. Discuss and strongly discourage cyberbullying, sexting, texting/talking while driving, and other inappropriate cell phone behaviors. Establish and enforce realistic consequences for improper cell phone use.
Remember the cell phone is never the cause of the problem…it’s the person using the cell phone that causes the problem.
Have an honest and open conversation about parental controlsBarb Harvey, Parents, Teachers and Advocates, Inc
Parents often wonder if using parental controls is an invasion of privacy. Consider the stage of life your children are in. Remember the stage of a two-year-old where they were constantly getting into things and exploring because they were curious about everything? Teens are in the same stage, only they are now exploring the world of adulthood. When children are 2 parents can put them in a high chair or playpen to keep them safe. Now as a teen we have parental controls for safety. It is a safety measure to monitor where they are curious and to answer their questions before they get bad advice or are preyed upon by nefarious people.
The important thing here is to sit down and have an honest and open conversation about parental controls. You can start the conversation by saying, “this is not your phone, this is my phone. I am letting you use it. It is a privilege and I am going to monitor your use of it.” Then the conversation can go from there. I suggest using a monitoring tool which first flags inappropriate hashtags or abbreviations. Then look for ones which will flag online bullying texts or posts. Also, use time controls. Teens can get to talking at 9PM and not realize it is 1AM. A time limit helps teens control those late night calls. Once teens are old enough to go out at night with their friends the times can be adjusted. Finally, use phone tracking. Most iPhones have this ability, it is important for parents to be able to tell where their teens are and a tracking program is ideal for this.
Utilize the phone as a learning deviceArvin Vohra, Vohra Method
Before a student gets a phone, parents should frame the phone as a learning device. The parents should have the student agree to use the phone for an hour a day of educational training. Once the student has the phone, it’s usually too late to build that habit.
Because of their constant presence, phones are great for learning anything that needs to be memorized (vocabulary, language, states and capitals, etc.)
Use cell phones to teach your student financial responsibility
Airto Zamorano, Numana SEO, @NumanaSEO
If you’re debating whether or not to give your child their first phone, consider turning it into an exercise that will teach your student financial responsibility while getting to have their first cell phone. Create a tracker for your child’s chores and assign a budget for the cost of their phone plus their allowance. Each chore should equal a dollar amount, so if they fail to complete one then they lose some of their weekly budget. Children really enjoy the sense of responsibility and also having their own phone.