When it comes to preparing our children to go out with friends or dating, it all starts with a plan. If you’re reading this and your child is small, the temptation is to think that this article doesn’t apply to you, yet. Think again. This is the time to think and plan for the future. Otherwise this time of training will sneak up on you and you will be unprepared.
Sit down with your spouse, or if you are a single parent, a trusted friend who shares your convictions. Begin by setting age limits for various social activities. Decide what age you will allow your child to: go out with friends alone, date, go out with a friend driving, go on a date with a date driving, ect. These may seem simple, but if you wait to think through these parameters, your child will be asking permission before your prepared to give the answers. As those time periods approach sit down again and decide what your family social interaction rules are. Set up a list of rules and the consequences if those rules are broken. This way you can sit with your child and be able to talk to them about your expectations and consequences if they break the rules in these areas. This will begin to help set up an open communication about the potentially difficult and frustrating parenting decisions about your child’s social interactions away from home.
Today’s smart phones can present another issue for parents. Just like everything else we have talked about they just need to have parameters and safeguards set up. Keep in mind everything that we have talked about this month is for the protection of our children. The first question you need to ask yourself as a parent is, does my child really need this? Is a smart phone something that they need or is a regular cell something that will suffice?
The thing to remember with a smart phone is that, while they are the most popular thing to the youth culture, they cost more per month and they have internet capabilities. The internet on these phones is much harder to filter. Last week we discussed internet safety and how to protect your children. The safety tips we discussed are much harder, if not impossible, to put into place on a phone’s internet. So again this begs the question, is this a necessary thing for your child to have? Do the risks of a phone like this outweigh the benefits for a teen?
One form of communication today that is extremely popular is texting. It is so easy because you can get straight to the point of communication. This may be why it appeals to the younger generations. They have even gone so far as to shorten words to enable quicker communication. Because it is so popular, this form of communication is definitely something that parents should be aware of and place parameters around. Until a child is trustworthy with the cell phone there may need to be limited, if any, texting.
Another issue that has popped up in this current trend is called “sexting.” This can be either sexually explicit conversation or explicit pictures. With the introduction of camera phones this has become a major problem. The government is beginning to crack down on explicit pictures sent via text. Most teens send them as a joke or because they have not thought through the ramifications of their actions. However, because they are underage, the government is treating this issue as child pornography. Please have a discussion with your child about this issue before allowing them to send or receive texts.
One of the biggest complaints about cell phones and teens seems to be that they are not staying within their minutes. This causes the family phone bill to be astronomical. If you have not decided to have your child pay all or part of their bill, then this may be an issue. When children are responsible for the money, they to pay more attention. They at least need to take care of whatever overages that have accrued. Take their cell phone away until those overages are either paid off out of their allowance or worked off by doing jobs around the house. Unfortunately most parents would rather pay the debt than fight the battle. It might be easier to just pay for it, but it teaches nothing. This is a responsibility issue. Cell phones are a privilege and responsibility opportunity not a right. This is an excellent training time for a child who may not be paying attention to those small details. It is those small details that may help them be successful later with finances and work related responsibilities.
As you are setting up family cell phone rules the obvious first step is leading by example. If the rule is “no answering the phone during dinner,” but the parent … their leader …takes a call, it’s an obvious huge inconsistency. It can even be helpful to have a family charging dock where everyone leaves their cell phones over night. This can help with the battle of calls and texts late into the night.
Phone rules also need to be established about where and when having your phone is appropriate. There have been many issues with cell phones in the schools. Even cheating has gone tech as kids are texting test answers to each other. There is no reason for a child to have their cell phone on during school hours. It creates a distraction to the classroom environment as well as being against the rules.
As difficult as this sounds, parents can lead by example in the car. Teenage drivers are not experienced enough to be able to use a cell while driving. Most states have a hands free law in place. Set an example when it comes to cell phone appropriateness.