Mobile Phones Can Be Instruments of Good, Too.

by Rosalind Wiseman

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

  • W e've all heard the horror stories of how mobile phone usage is corrupting our youth. Sexting, mobile bullying, making phone calls and texting during class can understandably make parents confused about the presence of technology in their children's lives. It's as if those reception bars represent a Pandora’s box of evil instead of a good signal . . .

  • Just like everything else in parenting, we have to apply common sense.

    Technology is interwoven into almost every aspect of our lives. Teaching our children how to use mobile phones ethically and responsibly not only gives you the opportunity to concretely connect your values to their behavior but also helps them develop the skills they need to successfully operate in today’s world. So with that in mind, here are a few guidelines to consider when giving mobile phones to children:

  • Mobile Phones Are Great, When Used in the Right Context

    For kids between the ages of five and 12, using a mobile phone for anything but calling parents or 911 is simply ludicrous. Children in elementary school do not need to be connected in the same way as their parents. But, with that in mind, letting youngsters carry a mobile phone for emergencies or when they are in a large crowd and could be separated from their parents or caregivers can be smart and proactive.

    For teenagers and children with more maturity, here are some examples of how mobile phone usage can be constructive and beneficial.

  • Plans & Logistics
  • Let's say your daughter is going to a concert where there will be a lot of people and she could get lost; or, perhaps your son is going to a party and might want to leave early because it's getting out of control; or, maybe your children were supposed to be driven home by a friend who has flaked on them. When plans change at a moment's notice, a mobile phone can help your child easily reach out to you to pick them up and provide some help.

  • Checking In
  • If your child is away at an activity or party, checking in with a parent via a mobile phone provides a sense of grounding. The kids know you’re being watchful (mobile phones can be like a long tether, which can be a good thing ). Plus, parents feel peace of mind knowing that they can reach a child who is out and about.

  • Social Development
  • Mobile phones provide instant access to friends and family. Yes, that can lead to hours of phone calls that involve gossip and discussions about hairstyles. But, such connectivity also can help your child reach out to a peer for advice, to provide support, and to engage in healthy, meaningful social interactions.

  • Responsibility
  • With fancy gadgets comes increased accountability. When you set guidelines and appropriate boundaries for mobile phone usage, you create a context for your child to demonstrate responsibility. Kids crave these opportunities - they want to be grown-ups, and they want to earn your respect. Parents can use mobile phones to foster healthy communications, responsible ownership, and adherence to house rules. Of course, when these boundaries are crossed, the punishments should be relevant and consistent.

  • Environmental Awareness
  • About 130 million mobile phones will end up in U.S. landfills this year, contributing potentially toxic elements that could contaminate land and water supplies. Many socially conscious programs, however, can help kids exercise environmental stewardship by recycling mobile phones. For example, LG’s Txt2Recycle and ecoMobilization movement raise awareness about the ecological impact of e-waste. The programs motivate students and give them tools for action, such as contests to collect and recycle mobile phones to help reduce e-waste and raise money for any cause important to them.

  • How You Can Encourage Good Usage

    First, kids learn good mobile phone usage by watching their parents’ good mobile phone usage. If we’re engaged in sexting, texting while driving, and other disrespectful or reckless behavior, our children will do the same. If we, however, model good behavior, so will they.

    Communicate to your kids that their phone is not a simple toy. It’s an important tool that connects them to you and the world, and they should use it with responsibility. Before giving a phone to a teenager, you must have a candid conversation where you clearly discuss what is acceptable usage and what is not. This way, you set clear guidelines and remove ambiguity in a child’s mind.

    Nonetheless, regardless of the guidelines you might establish, you always need to safeguard your kids and monitor their behavior. To that end, here are some tips on how you can protect your child and ensure good mobile phone usage:

  • Make sure your kids never share their mobile phone (or Internet) passwords with anyone except you.

  • Examine your child’s cell phone bill – know whom they’re calling and when.

  • Take advantage of all usage controls that your mobile phone/Internet provider offers such as the ability to restrict contacts to an approved list, ability to limit the type of purchases through the phone, GPS locator and the ability to limit the time the phone may be used. Be sure to check with your carrier to find out what controls they offer, as it varies by company.

  • We need not be afraid of mobile phones or the damage they can cause. Rather, we can celebrate the tremendous access and connectivity they afford us and our children. With a few guidelines and common sense rules, mobile phones can indeed be instruments of good.

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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