Tuesday, October 2, 2012

More Media

What is the best age to allow a child or teen to own a cell phone?  What questions should be considered?  When making the decision to allow your child to have a cell phone of his own, it is important to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons.  Some of the pros are that you can easily communicate with a child about transportation and their whereabouts and be assured of their safety.  One of the cons is that a cell phone provides complete privacy in conversations with friends.  The accountability of talking in the family home, where others might hear gossip or bad language is gone.  A child is free to have unlimited communication with teens that the parent has never met or even heard of, talk about anything he chooses without any supervision, and develop intimate relationships with the opposite sex without the knowledge of parents if he chooses.  Without any accountability and supervision, many teens are tempted to slip into more improper behaviors.  Another con is that once a child has a cell phone, other children have direct access to your child, but parents no longer have access to each other.  When parents and children share phone numbers, the parents have access to each other, but once they have individual phones the child's number no longer links a parent to a parent.  So communication and accountability is lost, and it may require extreme effort to acquire a parent phone number of your child’s friend when it is necessary.  Yet another con is your child may receive inappropriate pictures without your knowledge.  Also, if there is internet access on the phone, there is the opportunity for unlimited internet usage without parental knowledge or accountability.  Many of these cons can be addressed by not allowing certain features on the phone, however not all of these cons can be completely avoided.  The most important questions are: Has your child received enough training to be on their own from here on out?  Do they have their own convictions and values firmly in place and have they earned enough trust to become autonomous in this area?  Is your child prepared for the difficult moral, ethical, legal, relational and safety related decisions he will face every day all on his own without any adult involvement?

Facebook and cell phones, combined with time spent with peers at school provides teens the ability to completely live in a “teens only” world where they are no longer supervised or influenced by adults.  As a parent, you must consider the consequences of allowing your child a life that is completely secluded before they are ready for all of the difficult and weighty decisions that they will be challenged to make on their own.

When you do decide that it is time for your kids to carry a cell phone, be sure to have a signed contract with them which outlines the proper use of the phone.  Here is an example:

I know that having a cell phone to use is a privilege. I respect that my parents love me and want to keep me safe. My parents respect that I am becoming a young adult and want the privilege of having the use of a cell phone. With that in mind, I agree:

1.  I am required to contribute to the cost of my cell phone. My contribution is:    $ per month.
2.  My cell phone must be turned off and put on the charger at 9:00 pm on weeknights and 10:00 pm on weekends.  Exceptions will be made for late night activities. I may always call my parents.
3.  I will not send or receive pictures of nudity, violence or other inappropriate activities.  I will not take or send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others.  If I do receive inappropriate material I will show it to my parents and we will proceed with wisdom. I will not erase anything from my phone without my parent’s permission.
4. I will only give my number to friends (same gender) that I know share our values and are not involved in drinking, drugs or immorality.  Once I give out or receive a number, I will give that person’s first & last name, and number to my parents.  If I learn later that one of my friends is involved in one of these things, I will let my parents know as soon as possible so we can work together to figure out how to proceed with wisdom.
5.  I will not use my cell phone at any meal or during family time (may ask permission if school related).
6.  When taking or placing a call, I will step away from others so that I am not rude.  I will not text in a social setting unless everyone in the group has agreed that texting is the activity.
7.  I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cell phones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.  I will not send or receive any messages during church service or youth class.
8.  When out, I will always have my cell phone with me and ‘on’ so mom and dad can reach me if needed. I will always answer calls from my parents. If I miss a call from them, I will call them back immediately.
9.  I will not use or show my phone during school hours.
10.  I will not erase texts, or any received media, and mom and dad can see them at any time.
11.  I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know.

The consequences for not following through with these limits on my cell phone use are: the use of my cell phone can be taken away from me. This can happen even if I have contributed to the cost of the cell phone plan.

I ________________________________ agree to honor this contract.

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