Kids + Mobile Phones + Parties = Trouble!

by Rosalind Wiseman

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

  • H osting a party is a rite of passage for many boys and girls. It's an opportunity to share your home, have fun in a cozy environment, and bond with friends.

  • Whether it's just your son and his best friend, or your daughter and 10 of her classmates, hosting parties is a time-honored way for your kids to develop their relationships and establish their social circles.

    And while all of this can be great fun, parties and sleepovers also have always been drama central. When you put a group of kids together for an extended period of time, potential trouble is just around the corner. If they're getting together at your house, at least you have control over most of the circumstances (i.e., no alcohol, drugs, and other inappropriate content). Mobile phones, however, provide a potential gateway to a wide range of irresponsible behaviors – sexting, bullying, and gossiping, to name just a few.

  • When your child invites a group of friends over, you might consider collecting everyone's mobile phones upfront to avoid potential problems.

  • What Could Happen?

    You might wonder if this is really necessary. Kids have their cell phones with them most of the time, so what’s the harm if they have them during a party at your house?

    When a group of adolescent or teenage kids gets together, individuality easily can be suppressed. As a result, the group can take on a herd mentality, which makes cruel or mean behavior much more acceptable to them (It wasn't me, it was the group . . .) When you throw mobile phones and texting into the mix, suddenly the opportunity to make fun of other kids becomes very real and very easy.

    I've heard of teenagers at a party taking someone's phone and using it to attack the new boyfriend/girlfriend of their ex. One kid might take a phone and text a large group of people with an "I'm gay" message. Some of the children might laugh at what they think is harmless fun, but the target often is completely humiliated. Some of the other incidents that can occur include:

  • "Truth or Dare" during a sleepover where one child dares another to send an inappropriate picture of him- or herself to a person they like.

  • Starting a texting fight with someone who isn't there; the fight escalates because the other kids feed the sender hurtful and incendiary things to write.

  • Waiting until someone is asleep, taking an embarrassing picture of them, and then sending the pic to a larger group of friends or classmates.

  • Sending horrible texts to unpopular kids or others who are outside of your child's group or clique.

  • Getting one specific kid worked up about a situation and then provoking him or her to send mean texts to another kid.

  • Sending highly sexual texts to someone because the group thinks it would be funny.

  • Calling for alcohol or drugs.

  • Also, it's important to pay attention to the social makeup of your kids' circle of friends. If the friends who are coming over fall into some of the typical roles (Queen Bee, Sidekick, Messenger, Pleaser/Wannabe, Torn Bystander), it may be even easier for drama to occur, and for that drama to escalate through texting and mobile phone usage.

    Ultimately, it's harder for kids to ponder their actions when several of their friends are egging them on. This is why parents should consider taking mobile phones away during a party. (Visit the LG "Give it a Ponder" campaign for more insights on thinking before texting and using mobile phones; www.giveitaponder.com)

    What's more, as the mobile phones become an enticing tool for gossip and cruel games, the kids get distracted from the real point of the party: to spend quality time with each other.

  • With fewer distractions to text and call people outside, your kids and their friends will talk to each other and interact more.

  • In the long run, this will help them develop stronger, more meaningful friendships.

  • Setting the Rules

    I recommend establishing rules for your kids and their friends when they're hanging out at your house, especially for a party or an extended period of time. You can develop a rule that when your children's friends are over, they all have to park their phones in a designated yet visible place (e.g., in a basket in the kitchen or family room). With the phones in an off-limits public spot, there’s less temptation to misuse them.

    Also, such "phone parking" should be communicated to other parents. If you inform them about this rule beforehand, you can avoid another parent getting upset because their child's phone was confiscated at the party. Here's an example of a note you can send:

    "Hi Everyone! A few of my daughter's friends are coming over to my house for the soccer end-of-season sleepover. I just wanted you to know what my plans are regarding their mobile phone use while they are here. As we all know, it can be really easy for the phones to be used to spread gossip or inappropriate personal information. So, I'll have a basket to collect them as they come over; of course, if they need to contact you, they absolutely can. But, the phones will be in my possession while the girls are here. Please call me if you any questions. Thanks!"

    Once you explain the benefits of taking mobile phones away during parties, you'll be surprised at how much other parents, as well as their children, will buy into the idea.

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rosalind Wiseman

Rosalind WisemanAuthor of New York Times Bestseller, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends Rosalind is passionate about her work to raise awareness on technology in society.

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