Do you have children with cell phones? If you do, or if you are planning on giving them a cell phone soon, or wondering about whether or not you should get them a phone, here are some talking point ideas pulled from a lesson I have permission to share (with a few bracketed additions of my own).
Begin a discussion about cell phones by:
- Asking your [children] what they already know about cell phone safety. Get a baseline for what they have knowledge of, what they hear about or see at school.
- [In age-appropriate ways], ask them what their feelings and opinions are about cyber-bullying, harassment to send provocative photos [sexting is more common than we might want to think; be sure to be educated about the facts (including the fact that it can put your child in legal jeopardy to participate in sexting) and get educated about apps like Snapchat, especially if you have a teenager], and being contacted by people they don’t know. Let your child tell you what they do when they perceive something is dangerous or bad. Once you have a feel for where they stand, remind them how much you care about them and want to make sure that they are safe from any potential problems.
- Explain how you feel about cell phones and what your family wants to use them for (staying connected as a family, for use in emergencies, family support, and using technology to encourage dialogue, not replace it).
- Negotiate with your children what is an acceptable amount of time and money spent on mobile phones. Let your child know you will be monitoring your cell phone bill for acceptable use. The goal is to establish healthy media habits.
- Time spent on mobile phones, while useful and fun, is time not spent focusing on other important activities, such as studying, working, and improving mental and physical health.
- Discuss with them about the apps kids choose to download in order to help them learn to choose wisely. The apps should not violate your family’s personal media standards. Tell them you will be checking ratings for music, games, or app purchases.
- Let them know that you have investigated several programs that keep dangerous people from contacting teens on the phone, indecent websites from being accessed, and help filter any harmful material or websites. [And have conversations about how any information shared through technology needs to be assumed to not be private.] [Help your child understand that] there are people, even friends, who could try to do damage to their reputations [or who may inadvertently cause harm by sharing information when they shouldn’t]. Let them know that the reason you have decided to install different safety controls on their phone, or monitor periodically their cell phone usage is to continue fulfilling your obligation as their parent to keep them safe.
If you are an LDS parent, I would also add that one way to discourage unhealthy use of technology is to remind your children of why God has given us technology in the first place. All the other content in this post is more secular/non-denominational in nature but I firmly believe that when children are raised to consecrate some of their tech time to truly worthy causes, it can help keep the purpose of technology in perspective. See, for example, Elder Bednar’s warnings (video and full talk) and also his invitation to youth.
Here are a few videos that explore how to talk about cell phone use with children; how to draw boundaries about cell phone use; and parental controls that are available on the iPhone. There is also a video that can help parents know some tips for talking about hard things (like finding pornography on a cell phone or computer).
(Jeff Ford’s Five Cs are also very helpful…also found on the same YouTube channel or on our Pinterest page.)