Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kids and Cell Phones:Discuss Amongst Yourselves!

Ok, this essay has been prompted by the fact that my 11 yr old daughter just recently lost the cell phone she was supposed to "share" with her 14 year old brother. The phone is supposed to be mainly for communication with us, her parents, regarding schedule changes for after-school rehearsals, pickup needed school project items, etc. You know, "important" relevant stuff. We are on a family plan that currently only shares voice minutes...but wait! The kids are all into texting now a days, and that can really run up a phone bill fast! And given that you are usually locked into your current plan for at least a year to two years, those extra data minutes can add alot of zeroes onto your bill.

So what's a parent to do? Well for starters, the phone is not for recreational use. At least, not when it's in the kid's possession:
1. Just Say NO! No texting to friends via cell phone, especially when they're just hanging out in the same room or playground, or have just finished talking on the phone.
2. Set a number to limit the # of text messages sent/received and voice minutes. Check the account on-line and have your child graph it...good practical application of math.
3. Use parental controls to set time limits, time of day usage, or block certain numbers. One cellular service provider, makes it very easy to do this. Check to see if your wireless company gives you access to the same features.
4. Your child cannot give out their phone number to their friends without your approval. Only relatives or recognized extended family members will make the cut. This will help to keep teasing/harassing/bullying opportunities to a minimum. If someone calls or texts them, and it was not prearranged, your child will lose cell phone privileges accordingly. Your child, however, may initiate calls
5. Give them the oldest cell phone in the family. They should not have the latest, most expensive phone with all the bells & whistles. They don't deserve it! You deserve the souped-up version. Good for us parents is that an older phone simply won't do as much, and kids are less likely to be tempted to do the latest and greatest thing on the Web with it.
6. Use a pre-paid phone or phone cards, or have your child pay a small fee to help defray the cost of the cellular service...once some of their money is involved, your child will quickly learn ways to "save".

What do you think is the best way to moderate cell phone usage by your children?

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