When you finally break down and give your kids a cell phone there are some important things that you should discuss with them. Although the data and talk minutes discussion is important, it shouldn’t be at the top of the list. Here are some important issues you can talk to your kids about concerning their smart phones.
This may be a tough subject to talk with your kids about, but it is an important one. More chances than not, smart phones will expose your kids to inappropriate material. A chain text message, an accidental click, almost anything can take your kids into dark territory. Talk to your kids about the possibilities of this and ways to limit exposure. For one, your kids should let their friends know that sending such messages is not acceptable. You can also load apps to limit exposure to adult related sites. It is also important to let your kids know that they can come to you about any questions but be firm in letting them know you do not want them visiting any inappropriate sites.
Extremist groups are getting very savvy at recruiting children through social media. They are also very skilled at drumming up empathy for their cause. It is important to talk to your kids about the dangers of communicating with groups that have less than moral agendas. Kids should be aware that they may be approached by these groups in a way that may make the group seem noble or cool. The best thing for them to do is ignore them completely. Do not respond or acknowledge them in any way.
Self Image Issues
Having a smart phone gives your kid instant access to the unforgiving world of the Internet. They should be aware that anything they post, especially pictures, is open to be picked apart and criticized. There are people out there whose sole purpose is to offend and put down anyone and everything (trolls). Your kid’s self-image can be put to the test by putting themselves out there. A negative comment on an Instagram post can cause a lot of heartache and pain. Reassure them of how great they are. Self-worth does not come from others but from within. A great way to limit this type of negativity is for your kids to keep all of their social networks and posts private to close friends only.
Cyber bullying is at an all time high. It’s easy for bullies to attack others 24/7 on multiple fronts. Social media, email, text messages, etc. No place is off-limits and bullying can be relentless. Kids should tell you IMMEDIATELY if any type of bullying occurs. The longer it goes on, the more your child is susceptible to self-worth issues and depression. On the flip side of this, it is also easier for your kid to bully others. You may not think this is possible, but sometimes kids want to be part of a group or be cool, and group online bullying is an easy way for them to do that. Let your kids know that any type of bullying whether it be a negative comment on a picture or calling someone a name is not acceptable. In fact it is much worse online than name calling on the playground. Negative comments and posts are potentially visible to hundreds, possibly thousands.
It is amazing how smart phones can change your kids whole demeanor and attitude. They may become obsessed and addicted to their phone. They may withdraw to their rooms or secretly look at their phones at the dinner table or every chance they can get. A way to nip this in the bud is to implement a few rules and enforce them without fail.
1. No phone after a certain hour.
Make a smart phone rule that your kids cannot use their cell phone after a certain time. A great tip is to take away the phone at least an hour before bed time. This gives them a chance to unplug and get a better night’s rest.
2. Periodic phone check.
This may seem intrusive but it must be done. It is important to keep track of what your kids are doing with their smart phones. Make these checks periodic as well. Kids are sneaky and will delete or even alter text conversations and social media interactions if they know when you will do it. Keep them guessing.
One thing you may want to consider is having your kid sign a smart phone contract. In it you can put in expectations and consequences. Having a smart phone is a privilege, not a right and it’s important for them to see that distinction. Have them sign it, and keep them accountable.
Smart phones aren’t all bad. They serve many positive purposes such as keeping your kids safe and accessible. They enable kids to give you status updates after school or when hanging with a friend, etc.. With that being said, it is important to make them aware of the dangers and issues that may arise from having a smart phone. Keeping our kids safe is the number one priority.