When Do Tweens Need Cell Phones? — Part 3
NOTE: Although I refer to girls in this blog, all areas apply to boys as well as girls.
Alright, you managed to wade through all the choices of phones and plans. You asked all the right questions and you are satisfied with the answers from your tween. You are happy with wherever you purchased your daughter’s new best friend. Now comes the real down-to-earth piece that will be far more important than anything so far. Do not leave out this step. Some of the content that follows may make you squirm a bit. Suck it up. Your child’s welfare could be at risk, and that trumps your discomfort hands down.
Be as clear as you possibly can when setting the ground rules for managing the usage of your tween’s phone. Responsible use may constitute different meanings in different households. Since each child is different, you may find your “rules” vary some from child to child. So be it if that is the case. The information that follows is here to help you help your daughter understand that all that glitters is not gold. She most likely will be so excited to have this new friend, that you may want to have this conversation more than once to ensure she understands your expectations. In some cases, you may want her to repeat back what you say. And in other cases, you may want her to sign a written “contract” that states each and every point. You know your child best, so do it any way that gets your point across that she is being trusted to act responsibly.
If you are paying for minutes, set her monthly budget, AND STICK TO IT.
- If you purchased a prepaid plan for her, let her know what happens if she goes over her minutes. Will she be responsible for paying for extra minutes? Will she lose phone privileges? Be clear about the consequences here.
- If she is part of a family postpaid plan, let her know what impact she may have on the rest of the family if she uses more than her share of the plan minutes. Are there consequences for not respecting the family plan? Again, be clear. Hold her accountable.
- Is she allowed to purchase and/or download apps, games, ringtones, music, etc.? If no, you can save her the temptation by setting up parental controls to block any of these features. If your service provider does not have parental controls available, then your daughter will need to self-regulate. Be clear on your expectations here.
- Who is your daughter allowed to call and who is off-limits? You can program in the phone numbers and names in her contact list. This way the caller ID function will show her who is calling.
- What is your stand on your tween answering calls from unknown numbers? Be clear about this, too.
- Make sure she knows not to give out her cell number to people she doesn’t know. This is absolutely critical if she has a smartphone and has access to the internet.
- Distracted biking? What is that, you say? Texting and driving, only at this age it is on a bike. My child wouldn’t do that? Really. How many adults do you see texting and driving? They know better and they still do it. Don’t assume.
- Don’t forget walking and texting. That can be a real danger, especially where traffic could be an issue… take Germany for example.
- Talk to your daughter about cyber bullying. Discuss strategies for handling this type of bullying responsibly. And remember, more than 25 percent of teens report having been bullied or harassed through phone calls and text messages. That means chances are that someone she knows has probably bullied others or has been bullied themselves.
- Does your tween understand what inappropriate use of a cell phone means? “Sexting”, the sending or receiving of inappropriate photos is very real and more common than you think, even in this age group. Your daughter needs to understand that this type of behavior can quickly come back to haunt her.
You may have other rules specific to your family or environment. By all means, make these part of your discussion with your new cell phone user.
If you notice your daughter’s behavior changes in ways that concern you, have a chat with her. If you are uncomfortable about that, get someone else to step in. A cell phone can be a liberating tool for a tween. On the other side of the coin, it can tear down a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence if they are targeted by bullies or other predators. You can’t be with them at all times, nor should you be. They must learn to be more and more independent as they grow into teens. You can make that transition a smoother one by paying attention to what your tween is doing without dictating every one of her movements. Let her fail and help her learn from her failures so she can make better decisions when the stakes are higher. Your tween needs help transitioning from a child to a teenager. Guide, don’t smother.
Shine Your Light — Annie M