It seems like just yesterday that your daughter was taking her first steps, but the time has come for her first cell phone. You’ve put it off as long as you could, but you know that she’s ready for the responsibility. Plus, you’re ready for her to stop bugging you about it.
And after all, it won’t be all bad. It will be nice to reach her whenever you need without having to call her bff’s mom. As you approach this big milestone together, here are some strategies and apps to help ensure your daughter uses the phone responsibly:
Choosing the Phone
While your child probably already has a device in mind, be sure that you review all of the potential options and choose wisely. While your first instinct may be to get a stripped down, bare-bones option that limits usage capabilities, a smartphone may be a better and mutually beneficial choice. With a smartphone, your daughter will not only be able to call and text you but also will have access to her school website, homework, research databases, games and social media accounts. The smartphone can allow her to be social and learn at the same time.
Set Clear Ground Rules
Make sure your child clearly understands your expectations. Have a candid conversation about phone usage rules. Is your child allowed to download games and other apps? Do you plan to keep the phone at night to prevent late-night texting with friends? Encourage your child to help determine the rules and negotiate together until you reach an agreement that you both find to be fair. Write them all out in a clear contract that you both sign and place it prominently on the refrigerator. By doing so, your child will be more likely to stick to the rules.
Discuss Usage Openly
For many kids, cell phones have become a secretive form of communication. Using apps like SnapChat to send photos or texting in code with friends, they think their parents are none the wiser. And most of the time, parents aren’t fully aware of all they are doing on their cell phones. However, you can help deter this attitude by reviewing all phone activity at the end of every day for the first month or two.
Review texts together and discuss app usage as well as phone calls. Rather than making this seem negative, put a positive spin on it by encouraging your child to teach you tips and tricks to boost your own technology proficiency. After a few weeks of this level of transparency, your child will have a clear understanding that nothing on their phone is 100 percent private.
Use a Monitoring App
Cyberbullying is a real concern with over 43 percent of teens admitting they’ve been cyberbullied over the past year, according to research by the Harris Interactive. While it often happens on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, keeping your child from using these apps isn’t necessarily the answer.
Instead, you can keep an eye on their social media habits and general phone usage with a family-safety app like MamaBear (free for iOS and Android) or a subscription service like uKnowKids ($9.95 per month, available for iOS and Android). These apps and services notify you when profanity is posted to your child’s social media as well as letting you know when they add a new friend. This way you can stay up-to-date with who they communicate with on the Internet.