Managing Your Teen's Mobile Usage

by Rosalind Wiseman

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

  • I t is 1 a.m. and you discover your teen in bed sleeping with her phone on her chest so she doesn't miss any messages from her friends. As a concerned parent, you are probably wondering what steps you need to take to manage your teen's cell phone use.

  • First of all, it's important to know you're not alone. According to an online survey by Teenage Research Unlimited, one in six teens communicated 10 or more times an hour through the night. This type of behavior could be harmful to your teen's well being, not just for the lack of sleep, but their need to be constantly connected and what information/ content they are receiving and sending.

  • As parents, it's our responsibility to teach them how to use it responsibly and provide them with boundaries

  • Teens and Technology

    Technology plays a major role in a teen's life. It's not only a means for communicating with you, but it's the nexus of their social life. However, as with all milestones in their lives, there are certain responsibilities that come with having a mobile phone. Similar to getting their driver's license, they need guidance, instruction and moral guideposts. You would never dream of putting your teen behind the wheel without proper preparation and direction. Mobile Phone ownership and use should be viewed similarly.

    As parents, it's our responsibility to teach them how to use it responsibly and provide them with boundaries. Many kids have mobile phones and for good reason: they provide peace of mind for parents and a lifeline for kids. Deciding when your child gets a mobile phone is a personal decision and ultimately left up to you as a parent. The following are some tips and guidelines to help you manage your tween or teen's mobile usage. Blending these strategies with your family values and your child's needs will assist you in navigating through the ever-changing technology world.

  • Young Children and Mobile Phone Management

    If your family agrees it's necessary for your child under the age of 12 to have a mobile phone, here are a few guidelines:

  • Pre-program the phone with important phone numbers i.e. parents, 911, grandparents, etc...

  • Do not select a phone with Internet capabilities

  • If available, set strict usage controls through your wireless provider

  • Restrict mobile phone use during certain times of the day, for example: no mobile calls during homework, family time or sleep. This can be done through your wireless provider or by the rules you set in your house

  • Keep the mobile phone outside of their room. You may want to set up a station in a common area in your house, such as the kitchen or mail table, where all the phones are plugged in at night. At other times of the day when your child is home, you may want to keep the phone at the station.

  • Teens and Cell Phone Management

    Many parents buy mobile phones when their children become teens for good reasons: teens have more complicated schedules after school and increased freedom of movement. But it's also true that teens can also use this technology to hurt each other. However, with your guidance it doesn't have to be this way. Here are a few suggestions to help your teen to become responsible, accountable, ethical and safe.

  • Think about and decide how your family values transfer into the use of technology. Sit down with your teen and discuss their technology needs and usage including cell, Internet, etc...

  • Teach your teen mobile technology manners such as when it's appropriate to use their phone and when it's not (homework, dinner and family time, etc.) Also, it's good for them to learn responsibility for the actual device.

  • Communicate that they must respect others and their feelings. Mobile phones make it very easy to forward text rumors and inappropriate images of classmates - maybe people they know or peers? It's important to let your teen know if they contribute to another person's pain/humiliation you will hold them accountable by taking away their mobile phone until they earn the trust back.

  • Teach your teen that under no circumstance should they share a password with friends or people they're dating.

  • Do your best to know your child's password, this is easier said than done since passwords can be changed at anytime.

  • Be attentive and look carefully at your wireless bill. You need to know the time when calls are made and texts are sent and to whom. Is your child texting during school or in the middle of the night? If yes, then chances are they are not paying attention in school or getting much needed sleep.

  • Take advantage of all usage controls your wireless carrier offers. Most allow you to see ingoing and outgoing information including texts and pictures. Some also allow you to control the times your teen's mobile phone works - which mean you can stop them from sending or receiving information during certain hours of the day when they should be hanging out with family, doing homework or sleeping.

  • You need to be knowledgeable of your teen's cell phone capabilities. Educate yourself on the technology so you know how it works and what it can do.

  • Does your teen drive? Teens are not as experienced behind the wheel and have a higher incidence of accidents. If you add mobile phone use and texting into the mix, you have a possible lethal combination. Talk to your teens, state your rules very firmly, "no texting while behind the wheel and no talking without a headset." If they break the rules restrict their phone or car privileges or both. They won't like it, but they will be alive to complain.

  • In the end, as a parent you are the one in control and you are paying the bills.

  • Finally, Laying Down the Law

    As parents, when we decide to give our children technology devices it's up to us to take the lead and teach them to use it in an appropriate manner. We also need to lay down rules and not be afraid if our teens get upset or angry. Mobile phones are handy and useful and they can provide a real measure of safety. But, they can also be harmful and risky if not used properly. Teenagers are not always ready to handle the consequences that can transpire from improper use. Educating and communicating the benefits, risks and boundaries are the foundation for healthy technology practice.

    As you formulate your own plan of action, I have created a sample technology contract to use as a tangible way to instill your family values when using technology. Just remember that children are more likely to take ownership of something when they are involved in the process. So ask them to help you write it. This is something to get you started (Sample Technology Contract)

Filed Under: Mobile Usage


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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