More on Parenting Cellularly Equipped Children
On today's WFMY News at 5:30, Tanya Rivera will interview me on the subject of children and digital privacy. During the taping, my notes well exceeded the allotted interview time. Had the session been longer than a couple of minutes and had it not been my first television interview, rendering me somewhat nervous, here's how I would have expounded upon the subject matter.
Start with a phone that operates like a phone. When children are presented with their first cell phone, they don't necessarily need texting and data. My husband and I have three boys. When middle school activity schedules kicked in, the phone was a convenience we decided we could use. But they only needed it to call us when they were ready to be picked up. Texting and data were blocked on their phones until their 16th birthdays. By then, rules had been established and they had an opportunity to prove responsible behavior.
Parents need to create clear rules and expectations for the safe use of cell phones, especially once texting and data usage are allowed. From the beginning, parents need to be clear about allowable apps, privacy setting usage and even who their children are allowed to text and connect with online, such as trusted friends and relatives. Children need to be taught to never give out personal information such as age or address. These safety rules are no different than the "never talk to strangers" rule. All family rules need to be extended into the cellular and online realm.
Parents need to limit the time their children use cell phones. Some examples include no phone use at the dinner table or after 9 p.m. It is also a good idea to set up tech-free zones within the house. The kitchen and dining room, homework area and a family and friend gathering place like a back deck or front porch are examples of places that could be technology free. Twenty-five years ago, we had similar rules for television. It's the same concept. And of course, parents need to not only monitor cell phone usage and behavior just as they would supervise their children on the playground or in a swimming pool, but they need to model appropriate cell phone usage and behavior.