The cellphone was once an expensive and convenient communication device but now they’re cheap, with countless models and everyone wants one…including your child. But do they really need one? Things may have changed since you were a child yourself, but finding a way to relay important messages has never been impossible. Inappropriate use of cellphones in school is becoming an ever-increasing problem – from distractions in class, to ‘sexting’ and sharing inapporpriate pictures and videos (maybe of fellow classmates).
If your child insists that they need a cellphone, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your kids pretty independent?
- Do your children need to be in touch for safety reasons?
- Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
- Do you think they’ll use a cell phone responsibly – for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
- Can they adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
- Will they use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions and you feel as if your child is ready for a cellphone, it’s time to establish some rules and responsibilities of its use.
Establish a budget. If they’re using their phone to make only important calls, consider what denomination would be appropriate and top them up weekly. Once they’ve gone over those minutes, either let them do chores to receive extra credit or let them know they’ll have to wait until Monday.
Have a strict ‘no use in class’ policy with suitable punishments. While a cellphone can be a great tool, stress to your child that the classroom is where they’ll lay their building blocks for their future. Let them know their future is always your priority.
Review their phones. Ask about strange numbers or inappropriate text messages. Occassionally look through their pictures and videos. While they may see it as a violation of their privacy, it IS your responsibility to keep your child safe, and that includes cyberbullying and ‘sexting’.
If your kids are old enough to drive, no driving and talking! It’s the #1 killer of teens in the U.S. so stress to your young adults how important it is to pay 100% attention to the road.
Teach them ‘phone etiquette’. That means explaining the use of their phones while in public – in lines, in a restaurant, in the car and even in private, at home. While cellphones keep us connected to one another, explain to them that a face-to-face conversation is always more favourable.
If the ‘yay or nay’ of cellphone use is on the table for you and your child, sit down with them to discuss if they believe they’re ready. Ask them the questions above, and if they answer ‘yes’, then take a deep breath and a leap of faith. Then, it’s time to lay down some rules.