It’s that magical moment that every parent is waiting for. Well, maybe not every parent. But, your child has certainly been anticipating it. Finally that day has arrived – your child is getting that very first cell phone. And boy are they beyond excited. Hold on. Before handing it over, we’ve got some tips for you when it comes to how to start out with cell phone use and what you need to know about monitoring it.
Rules for Cell Phone Use
Cell phones open up an entirely new world for your child. Now they have the opportunity to talk and text with their friends, use all sorts of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and all of those social texting apps), and browse the Internet at will. And here you thought monitoring the family’s laptop use was a challenge.
As you hand over the phone, make it clear that the cell comes with a full set of rules. Keep in mind, there really is no “standard” set of rules. Yes, you’ll find general guidelines, such as don’t give out your private information or no talking to friends after a specific time. But, your rules are governed by your own beliefs and values. For example, some parents are perfectly fine with their kids texting friends until bedtime, while others have set hours for cell phone use.
Here’s where it gets tricky. You have rules that you expect your child to follow. But, you aren’t entirely sure that they’ll actually follow the rules. That means you need to monitor your child’s cell phone use. Again, the amount of monitoring you do depends on your family’s views.
Before you begin monitoring anything, you need to tell your child that you will check up on them. Don’t worry about feeling like you’re 1984-ing your child – you are the parent and it’s completely your job to protect them. Even so, this shouldn’t include sneaky or secretive types of monitoring.
Stop the Secrets
Be upfront and tell your child how, when and why you’re doing the monitoring. If your child has passwords that are protecting the phone, email accounts or social media accounts, discuss whether or not your kiddo hands over the codes.
If the idea of giving you full password access doesn’t sit well with your idea of privacy policies, talk to your child about showing you what they’re doing on the phone whenever you ask. Instead of sneaking a look at your tween’s texts after they go to sleep, all you need to do is say, “I’d like to check and see who you’re talking to.”
You can also tell your child that you’re installing monitoring apps on their phone or use software that sends their texts or emails to you. If you don’t like the idea of being sneaky, let your kiddo know that you’re using these as monitoring tools. They might not like it, but it’s for their own good.
Not only does letting your child know that you can and will monitor their cell phone use make it clear that following the rules is an absolute must-do, but it also may keep them on their toes. Why? If your child knows that Dad can check in on their cell phone use at any time, it’s more likely that they won’t use their phone for anything you wouldn’t approve of as there’s a risk of getting caught.
Consequences in Action
What happens when your child breaks the rules? This is where monitoring comes into play. Your daughter wasn’t supposed to text boys she doesn’t know, but she did. Your son isn’t allowed to use Kik, but there’s the app – right on his phone.
If you’re going to monitor your child’s cell phone use (which you should), you also need to have consequences for breaking the rules. This might mean that they lose their phone privileges for a set period of time or that you really lock down and amp up the monitoring.
Even More Monitoring
When kids don’t follow the rules, things have to change. Repeatedly breaking your cell phone rules requires stricter monitoring. You tried respecting their privacy. Now you’re disappointed that they broke your trust and broke your rules. This never feels good. Not to the parents, and not to the children.
You can continue checking in on your child’s phone and hoping that they’ll turn their behavior around. Or, you can start some more serious monitoring. Tracking your child’s phone with apps or software may seem extreme, but it can help to keep your child safe. And, isn’t that why you’re monitoring your child’s cell in the first place? If they aren’t being honest, are hiding or deleting texts and other content or are breaking rules that you’ve set, things need to change. Before taking the phone away, let your child know that you will be monitoring their phone frequently – at least for now.