|Kids and Cell Phones |
A Little Bit of Freedom Can Go Farther
Than You Ever Expected
By Beth K. Vogt
My 9-year-old daughter Christa and two of her friends finagled faux cell phones from a local retailer. For the rest of the day, they walked around “chatting” and “texting” nonstop.
Well, yes and no.
Christa would love her own cell phone. But after watching her constant use of a fake phone, I don’t think she’s ready for a calling plan with real minutes.
One 2008 survey reveals that a lot of kids, unlike my daughter, have a cell phone tucked in their school backpack, purse or jeans pocket:
• 22 percent of 6 to 9 year olds
• 64 percent of 10 to 14 year olds
• 84 percent of 15 to 18 year olds
For most of us, it’s not a question of if our child will get a cell phone, it’s a question of when. I like what Nadia, one of my mom-friends said, “(I) want to see first that (my children) are able to hold appropriate conversations face-to-face before they begin texting friends … Hopefully, by the time they do get a phone, they’ll be mature enough to handle it appropriately and use it in such a way that it adds to their young lives … instead of causing a distraction from their lives.”
It’s true that kids spending hours and hours texting messages to their friends can be an annoying, and costly, problem. But even more concerning is sexting — sending sexual messages or photos via cell phones. Before you think, “My child would never!” let me share another stat: A 2009 Associated Press-MTV Poll reported more than 25 percent of young people (ages 14-24) have been involved in sexting. While your child might not initiate the inappropriate text, that doesn’t mean he won’t ever receive one.
So what’s a mom to do? Ban cell phones, forever and ever, amen? As my dad-friend, Marty, pointed out, cell phones allow for easy communication and after-school pickup with his children. “An added emergency safety measure is the GPS locator,” he said. “If their phones are on and with them, I can pinpoint where they are — or where they lost their phone!”
Rather than be reactive, be proactive when it comes to your kids and cell phones.
Establish texting rules — No texting during meals, during school or during family time. Set a nightly “curfew” when your child has to turn his cell phone off.
Establish consequences for misuse — What will you do if your child uses her cell phone to cheat on a test or runs up your phone bill? Set the boundary — and then hold the line.
Establish accountability — Do you even know how many times a day your son texts her BFF? Check your child’s phone log at least once a week. Don’t assume the worst, but don’t assume everything’s fine, either.
Beth K. Vogt and her husband experienced a double-dose of parenthood — three children in their 20s and a surprise fourth in their 40s. The author of “Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35,” Beth edits Connections and is a consulting editor to MOMSense Magazine.