I am about to do it. I am about to give my kids their own cell phone. I have resisted but with the way the world (and their classmates) are evolving, NOT giving my kids a cell phone is actually more harmful to their development than any “damage” they may encounter.
HOWEVER, I am not “just handing over a cell phone”. As a parent, I still have a duty and obligation to teach and protect my kids.
I could do the techie-thing and just block everything, put monitoring software on the phone etc. but that will not teach my kids anything. In fact, these kinds of practices just teaches kids how to get around your strict rules. Ever see what happens if you take a kids cell phone away ? They simply find ways around it eg. use free online Text services to send free SMS or do a SIM swap and put their new sim into a friend’s phone. Sneaky…
So I am in favour of teaching my kids about the proper usage of technology and the danger that are is out there. My kids are young so some of these rules are strict and can be relaxed for older kids. Yes, it is a fine line between parenting and kids privacy. This line and rules need to be set by each parent. Here are mine for now:
10 Non-Negotiable Cell Phone Rules for Kids
The phone will have a password so that no one can pick it up and play with your apps, send emails on your behalf, update your status etc.
This password will be known by Mom and Dad at all times. Same applies for any email address, YouTube Channel, Facebook account, Photo Sharing site. We will also be “friends” to all of these and see everything that is uploaded.
2. Friends/ Contacts:
you will never accept as a friend anyone you don’t know personally. This is especially true for BBM, WhatsApp and Facebook. There are loads of sic-os out there who try to friend kids and via mobile phone they can pretend to be your friend. They are not.
The “Dont talk to strangers” rule applies for mobile phone too.
Very important: You will never get into trouble for reporting ANY suspicious behavior, as well as any behavior that scares or worries you. If you made a mistake come tell us about it and we can deal with it. Do not try to hide it as it make it worse. As on every show on TV, the people who try to cover up always get caught.
3. Time and a Place:
the phone will be put on charge and switched off every evening at 7:00pm. The chargers will be in the kitchen and not in your bedroom. The last thing before bed-time should be a book and not a BBM.
Forget about it now. The phone does not travel to school. I don’t care that all your friends take their phones. All your friends are right there on the playground – look up and talk to them. There is no reason to Group Chat with the same people that are on the same field.
Special Permission will be granted to take your phone to school on days where Mom and Dad feel you need to have a phone such as when not sure when your sporting event will end. On those days, the phone will be handed in at school as school rules dictate.
5. Take Care:
the phone is not free and is not a right to have one. It’s a privilege. Treat the phone as if it’s the only communication device left in the world. You break it, you pay to have it repaired. It’s my phone that I am lending to you.
The phone is not an excuse to be rude, hurtful or mean. A text or a BBM is the exact same as verbally saying it out loud. If you would not say something in person do not text it with the phone.
If other people are being mean and hurtful to other on their phone, behave as you would in real life. Do not be part of the conversation. Report all bullying instantly.
If I check your phone, there should be nothing in there that I would be horrified to find. If you are not sure: ask yourself if you would be happy to say it out loud in the room with me listening…if there is a doubt – don’t say it.
Basic courteously applies. You know when it’s acceptable to speak on the phone and when it’s not. Same rule applies to texting. If we are having dinner, do not sit on your phone texting. That is just rude. Family time is golden and just like Mom and Dad put away their phones – so will you.
The internet is full of porn and so are mobile phone. You will stumble on it. Curious ? got Questions? Superb – Mom and Dad are here to answer everything. The rubbish from your friends “who know” is nonsense and your phone is not the tool to find out – 99% of the time make stuff up. Yes, it is going to be embarrassing to ask Mom and Dad. We will never mock the question or shy away from it and will give you the info you want.
Do not, under any circumstances, take photos of your private parts. FULL STOP. This is known as Sexting. I am fully aware that there are people out there who do these stupid things and since you are not stupid do not be one of those. As a rule, assume that any picture that you take or that someone takes of you with your phone will be on the front page of the newspaper and shown to everyone at school.
Do not take photos of other people’s embarrassing situations. If someone falls, hurts themselves the correct reaction is to help not put it on YouTube. You would not like your face plastered all over YouTube.
You live in the real world – not behind the phone camera. Yes, take pictures, but don’t forget to enjoy where you are and enjoy the people you are with. You are not a documentarian – not every single thing that happens need to be uploaded somewhere.
The phone is your responsibility. This not only includes what happens to the phone itself but the actions that you do with it. Remember that every action has a consequence.
10. Experience and Experiment:
Phone is a tool and a gateway to the world. Use it that way. Be curious enough to look stuff up. Don’t just accept everything people tell you. Think for yourself and use the phone to Google answers to questions. Play games that are fun and games that stimulate your mind. Use the phone to empower yourself with information. Be a responsible part of society and the world you live in.
*These are my rules but please feel free to use and adapt as you wish.
Also check out more info on how to protect your child when giving them a cell phone: http://thetechieguy.com/2012/02/21/should-i-get-my-child-a-cell-phone-how-to-protect-the-mobile-children/
Note: There is a growing trend that shows how kids are becoming addicted to cell phone – addicted just like people are addicted to cigarettes and drugs. Be aware and look out for signs.