Last night was Halloween and this year I finally relented and let my almost 13 year old son go with a group of his friends and NO parent! I made sure he had a flashlight and we discussed ways to remain safe and stay out of trouble but then kissed him goodbye and crossed my fingers. I made sure to send him with his cell phone and a 9 PM curfew but other than that, he was on his own for a couple of hours. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and he arrived home on time without any problems. Of course, he ate WAY too much candy but other than that, all went well! I really wavered about getting him a cell phone for a long time but finally broke down last summer. Of course, he wanted a smart phone with the data package and all the bells and whistles but that was SOOO not going to happen! He got a tiny pay as you go cell phone that makes phone calls and that’s about it! He wants his cell phone to be a toy but *I* know it is an important tool in keeping kids safe and connected to their parents! I seriously worry about all sorts of issues in regard to cell phone safety! While they can be very useful, they can also get a kid in a lot of trouble!
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I recently attended the AT&T Mobile Safety School that helps raise awareness of the issues surrounding kids and the use of cell phones. There are a lot of issues that kids face today when it comes to mobile phones: bullying, privacy, over-usage, texting while driving and many more. I was really surprised at some of the information I learned during the mobile safety seminar. It was rather eye opening to talk to other parents about their children’s cell phone usage and amazingly enough, I think I am about middle of the road in terms of my cell phone policies with my kids. Some parents were much more lenient than I am, although there were a few that have even stricter rules than I do! I also learned some interesting facts about kids and cell phones that I thought I would share!
AT&T recently conducted a national study with parents and kids about cell phone safety. Did you know:
The average age a child is given his or her first phone is 12.1
The average age for a child’s first smartphone is 13.8
For kids 8-11 who have a cell phone, the average age they received their first phone was 9.5
72% of the top-selling apps are targeted to pre-school and elementary school children
Over 1 in 5 children ages 8-17 have received a mean or bullying text message from another kid on their mobile phone.
46% of kids ages 8-17 have a friend who has received a message or picture that their parents would not have liked because it was too sexual.
2 out of 5 kids with a mobile phone say their parents have not talked to them about staying safe and secure when using the mobile phone
53% of kids have been in a motor vehicle with someone who was texting and driving
These are some rather staggering statistics. While parents might want to hide their head in the sand and ignore cell phone safety issues, the reality is that kids are dealing with cyber bullying, sexting, texting while driving, and many other problems. They might not actually TELL you about these issues but they do exist and as parents we have to do everything we can to help our kids stay safe.
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How do you know if your child is even READY for a cell phone?
You really have to decide this on a case by case basis. Here are a few tips from ATT to help you decide whether or not to invest in a cell phone for your child:
Look at past behavior. Have your children accepted and managed responsibility with other privileges, like a pet or an expensive toy?
Consider why your children “need” a mobile phone. Do they need to be in touch for safety reasons or for social ones?
Introduce a new kind of allowance. Are your children able to stay within a budget when it comes to a weekly allowance or time spent in front of the television?
Teach modern mobile etiquette. Children should understand the reasons why it’s not appropriate to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, or use text, photo and video functions to embarrass or harass others.
Consider the costs. Mobile phones and their accompanying plans can vary dramatically in cost. Make sure the added expense of both the phone itself and the service plan is something your family is comfortable adding to the budget.
Cell Phone Safety: Should you buy your child a smart phone?
So, if you have finally decided your child really does need a cell phone, now you have to ask yourself whether or not they need a smart phone! They might WANT a smart phone…what child doesn’t, right? Unlimited access to the internet and email, photo sharing ability, games, etc are all powerful draws for a kid! But, it is also a huge responsibility and can become very hard to monitor and keep your child safe when they are that connected 24/7. During the ATT Mobile Safety School that I attended I was really shocked to see how many kids my own son’s age (almost 13) had smart phones already! For me, I just cannot trust his judgement that he will not use a smart phone improperly! When you give your children smartphones, you’re giving them powerful communications and media production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to Web sites instantly. Knowing my son’s maturity level, I don’t even want to consider the type of videos he might be uploading to YouTube!
If you DO decide to get your child a smart phone, make sure you put some guidelines in place first. Know what your child’s smart phone can actually do. Do your research so you can talk to your kids and set limit. You can turn off features that you don’t want your child to use. You can also use parental controls to lock features that you don’t want your child or teen to access. Things like location services, downloading ability and data plans are all things your child may not need. You can always unlock features as your kids prove their ability to responsibly manage them.
Talk to your child about your expectations for responsible ownership, like not taking or posting embarrassing photos on social media sites, learning the importance of privacy settings or figuring out when websites or ads are malicious. Remember,it’s okay to say no! If the phone has more features than you think your child can handle, it may be worth your while to wait and go with a regular cell phone.
When you get your child a cell phone, establish phone etiquette and safety rules. Here are a few tips from ATT on how to ensure cell phone safety while still allowing kids them the freedom of a cell phone.
•Establish rules around downloading. Make the rules and establish consequence before kids go app shopping.
•Limit screen time. Even if the games your kid plays on your smartphone are educational, count their smartphone time in their total screen allowance for the day.
•Play along. Many apps are multiplayer, so carve out time to play with your child.
•Don’t go by the developer’s age rating. The age rating listed in the app description is from the developer and can be way off.
•Look for age-appropriate apps with quality content. Find apps that are truly worth your child’s time and your money.
•Establish a spending limit. Remind kids that apps add up.
•Watch out for ad bombardment. Many “free” apps make their revenue by selling ads. Show your kid how to tell what ads look like.
AT&T has put together a variety of resources to help parents.Learn what other families are doing through videos and downloadable tip sheets. The wireless safety website has a ton of information available to anyone who is interested! If mobile safety for kids is important to you join the AT&T Mobile Safety Twitter party on November 9 at 2p ET! The hashtag is #ATTMobileSafety
Disclaimer: This post is part of a compensated cell phone safety campaign for ATT through The Motherhood. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.