This column continues the series on setting limits on your kid’s access to and use of social media and the internet. The topic for this column is cell phones. It is the second part of the expectations and recommendations for kids in grades 9 and 10. (If strategies or information have been covered in previous columns from earlier ages, you will be referred back to those columns for specific details.)
Cell Phones. About 30 minutes after you got your kid a cell phone (those many years ago) it became an appendage of their body. With this degree of familiarity Occasional Monitoring is all that should be necessary by this age. But, don’t get lulled into a sense of false security. Do a close check every couple of months. Teenagers can be very sneaky.
Etiquette. They should have been using their cell phone enough (and been punished enough in the early stages of close monitoring) for you to no longer have any real problems about cell phone etiquette (e.g., when to text and not, turning off the phone, muting it, etc.). Don’t let up. Keep requiring them to prioritize humans who are physically present and have times when they put the phone down while doing something else.
Internet access. This is the age when kids can begin to responsibly access the internet on their phone. It will be important to review, yet again, your expectations (and rules) about the use of the internet. The review should include frequency of updating social network sites, inappropriate sites, etc. This is one of the few situations where you skip from a previous level of No Access to only Occasional Monitoring without taking your kid through the other stages of parental monitoring. (Primarily because you have had the opportunity to shape their use of the internet directly in previous developmental phases.) Do not give them access to the internet on their phone until they demonstrate the responsible and appropriate use of the internet at home.
Apps. Continue to require your kid to obtain permission before adding apps to their phone. One way to keep track of their apps is to add them to your phone too. It makes it easy to compare. (You can make a list if you don’t want all those stupid apps on your phone.) Apps added without permission will be deleted. Then, no apps can be added for a month. If it happens again during the “app-less” phase, require them to remove all apps from their phone and start over again with one app. Then allow additions on a timed basis (e.g., adding one every 2 weeks). That should pull them up short. Conduct Occasional Monitoring regardless of the system you use to track apps on their phone.
Texting (along with Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, Snapchat, etc.). With all your previous work on monitoring and setting limits, kid should be texting appropriately by now. Again, the more ways your kid has to send silly, meaningless and forced messages, the more ways they will be diverted from more meaningful pursuits (like trying to weasel money out of you to purchase silly, meaningless things). Use Occasional Monitoring and find a reason to shut off texting for a period of time (7 days is a nice round number) due to misuse.
This age is a high frequency age for kids to encounter challenges to maintaining appropriate behavior and adhering to moral guidelines. They are likely to be strongly tempted by a desire to be their own person (i.e., not like mommy and daddy), the urge to be cool, the thrill of being “bad” and susceptibility to peer influence. Happily, your kid will become so familiar with communicating through the use of texts and communication apps that you are much more likely to catch them when they start to slide than parents of previous generations. Expect this (even from “good” kids) and see it as an opportunity for retraining and reinforcement.
When you discover minor to moderate violations of expectations for texting and cell phone use (i.e., serious language violations, promoting or condoning violations of moral principles like lying, cheating, etc.), it is time for reeducation. Spend the next 7 days giving lectures of at least 30 minutes (though you can go on as long as your inspiration leads you) on civil behavior and integrity and character—with their texting turned off. Then, step your kid back to Regular monitoring (every couple of days) for 2 weeks when you turn texting back on. Remove all offending apps and follow suggestions in the app section above. If the violation is serious (e.g., drug transactions, sexting, gross violations of morals, etc.), shut everything down in their life; phone, internet, video games, etc. It is time to devote some serious attention to addressing the specific problem that has arisen without the distraction of these means of communication and influence. This would be a time to consult with a mental health professional to assess the situation and get suggestions for how to proceed.
Photographs and Video recording. Sexting is much more likely to occur within the context of a serious relationship. Serious relationships are just now beginning to develop in teens. Continue a policy of No Access to photographic or video recording on cell phones. It will save you a lot of trouble.
originally posted on www.brentwoodhomepage.com