I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t put off giving my Teenager a mobile phone any longer. He was starting Secondary (High) School in another town & it just made sense. All his friends had one. I didn’t want him to be left out, but at the same time I knew the risks associated with it.
When is the right time to give them a phone?
Lets be honest here, most kids are given a phone or ipad/tablet to entertain them for a period of time. They’re way more tech savvy than alot of us.
In my house, because my eldest has been bullied most of his life, I was very hesitant to open him up to his own phone & therewith Social Media. But heading to High School meant he would be left out without one & I didn’t want him standing out & being picked on when he had a fresh start.
It also comes in handy when they forget they have after school activities or you’re running late to collect them.
He was 12 nearly 13 when he got my hand-me-down phone. Each family will be different & theres no right or wrong time once the child understands all the risks associated with having the responsibility of a phone.
In order to open up the conversation with him about the responsibilities and not just he excitement or having a phone, I made him sign a contract. You can purchase the contract in my store if you’d like a copy, but I’ll explain it further here.
I understand its not legally binding (they’re minors for crying out loud) … but they don’t know that. Plus by physically signing the Contract they are giving you their promise to abide by the rules. You can then take it out at any time & show them where they have violated the rules.
It also gives you an opportunity to discuss caring for the phone, correct use of the phone, Social Media and the importance of digital safety.
General Phone Care
Teenagers loose things all the time. A Contract can outline who’s responsibility it is to fix the phone if it breaks or who replaces it if it gets lost. Perhaps pocket money/allowance can be earned & used to fix broken screens. Screens break all the time.
My sons school has a Policy whereby anyone caught with a mobile phone gets a hefty fine. Phones are to be left in lockers or powered off during the school day. I feel if they are fined, it is the childs responsibility to make up the money for it.
The Main Point of the Phone
This is first & foremost a communication tool. Not just for their friends, but for the Parents to get hold of them. I’ve put a piece in that I expect to be able to get hold of them at any time. If I text, I expect an answer as soon as possible. If I call, I expect to be called back immediately. An obvious exception would be if they’re in school or its not appropriate.
My Contract stipulates what time at night they can have their phone until. Back in the ‘old days’ we used to have conversations on the land line phone with no privacy. Today, there can be alerts or texts coming in at all hours of the night. Phones will therefore be charged outside of their room so theres no disturbances as night. Its a break from the “always on” mindset.
This also gives me a chance to check their phone if I need to.
Importance of What Gets Communicated via Phone
This is a biggie. It cannot be repeated enough to kids that ANYTHING they text, share, comment on can be retrieved. It doesn’t matter if they’ve deleted it off their phone. Once its gone out into the world wide web, its on a server somewhere.
Do not send/comment on or share anything your Mom wouldn’t be happy with
General rule of thumb. Think : If your Mom wouldn’t be happy with it, delete it or simply don’t say it.
This will hopefully keep them out of getting involved in group chats or ‘slagging’ other children. While they may not realise (or maybe they do) that their actions can be deemed rude or bullying to another child, if they think about their Mom reading it it may stop them from sending.
I had this issue with my son as he has Aspergers & everything is very black or white with him. He would reply very bluntly which could be taken offence at. But in reality he was just calling it how he saw it. I have to constantly remind him that if he can’t say it to me, then he can’t text it to another person.
Real World People Only
This can be so difficult to explain to younger kids, but teenagers should know better. Unless they’ve physically met the person they should not be communicating with them. There are some obvious exceptions, like family living abroad.
The importance of explaining that Social Media makes everyone seem so much closer. Theres tons of horror stories of children getting tricked into thinking a ‘friend’ is in the next town, when in fact they’re a much older person living in a completely different country.
There will be no meeting of people who you have ‘met’ on social media. I know this is contradictory to the above paragraph, but sometimes on Xbox, Playstation or even Mobile gaming apps they can become friendly with someone. They should NEVER hand out their phone number or contact details to someone they haven’t met.
Contact details are only for those people they know & trust. This includes email addresses & social media profiles.
The contract I created also details how the teenager is expected to tell me immediately if they feel something is wrong or seems odd.
Teenagers are clever. They can sign up for a fake email, download apps & create profiles quicker than we can brush out teeth! Its inevitable unfortunately. My son has an iphone & I can control a certain amount using the Screentime app on my own iphone. But theres always a work around.
As a Parent all we can do is explain the pitfalls of Social Media Apps & how to protect themselves.
Snapchat is a parents nightmare as the texts delete themselves. It also means bullying can be going on without your knowledge. Theres new apps all the time, so please rather educate your child on how they use them rather than a specific app.
Anything sent on a phone can be retrieved. I don’t care what anyone says … its available somewhere, on some server somewhere in the world. Even if its been deleted off the phone … its still out there in the world.
Kids need to understand that this may be retrieved one day when they’re running for President. Their future may be altered by something they sent as a naive teenager.
Or maybe they record something & send it. Forensics can trace that video back to the phone that recorded it & back to the mast which sent it via data or wifi. Its all there.
Again, they shouldn’t send anything to anyone which they wouldn’t send them Mom!
Phone Monitoring Apps
There are hundreds of Phone Monitoring/Spying Apps available. I had considered one of these in the beginning but decided against it as its an ongoing cost.
Instead I try to discuss the rules regularly and go over the main points again. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
No family is perfect. I’ve had a few issues that needed to be cleared up too. We went back to the Contract, I re-explained the rules and consequences are given out.
In essence, we’re just trying to keep our kids safe. Its inevitable they will get a phone at some stage. Its our responsibility to try to educate them as best we can on respectful & safe behaviour while using the phone & all it has to offer.
If you would like to purchase the Mobile Phone Contract I used for my Son (adapted for anyone), it can be purchased in my store by clicking the image below :