Deciding if/when you should offer your tween a cell phone can be a difficult decision. A cell phone represents both a mode of constant communication, and a connection to a world perhaps previously untapped by your tween. Before you decide to equip your tween, it is helpful to review the pros and cons that come with this decision. On first impression it might not seem like a big deal to provide your tween with a cell phone. Much of the potential life changing affect will depend on the type of phone you choose to present.
Smart phones as you know, offer the most access to the outside world. Although it is difficult to admit to ourselves, even the simplest phones put in the hands of a tech savvy tween can reach out and touch millions of anxiously awaiting strangers with the right app.
Once you put a cell phone in your tween’s hands life as you know it changes. As with most life changing situations, there are pros and cons. Perhaps the greatest pro is your ability to stay connected to your tween. The con? This only works if your tween is responsible and willing. Few stresses can compare to the paralyzing anxiety a parent experiences when a child is not responding to her cell phone. A quick reminder to keep his phone charged can quell some of this angst. In addition, it is recommended that you establish a check-in code word with your tween. Instruct your tween to text this word at set times as an easy check-in that signals that all is well. These days video chat apps also provide another pro. The visual connection presents a prime opportunity to actually see that your tween is okay. There are also a multitude of apps (ex: my favorite-Life 360) that can keep you abreast of your tween’s location even when/if he is so engrossed in something that he is not responding to your texts and calls. Again however, even these apps become useless if your tween does not remain logged in.
Offering a cell phone signifies that you are letting your tween take a few steps toward independence. As these steps increase the necessity of a cell phone indeed becomes vital. Smart phones provide an opportunity for your tween to make connections through social media. As a parent, trying to keep up with all the apps can become a daunting task. Random and frequent cell phone checks are not only recommended but also required. Keeping a collection of your tween’s updated user Id’s and passwords is also strongly suggested. When you are checking your tween’s cell phone, be mindful to focus on safety. Talking to your tween about the latest news her friends have communicated is not recommended. Your goal is to ensure safety. Once you try to connect with your tween by talking about the latest gossip you saw on her phone, you maybe dooming your ability to truly keep connected. Never underestimate your tween’s ability to use technology to his advantage.
A cell phone represents a gateway to a world filled with unknown entities. Although your tween’s intent may be to stay in touch with friends, it is easy to get sucked into the social networking vortex. As a parent you probably comprehend that a cell phone, a smart phone in particular is indeed a powerful tool. The difficulty is that as with any tool, if mishandled the dangers are infinite.
Most tweens have a false sense of security-they suffer from “I know better” syndrome. Their newfound ability for abstract thinking-to see beyond their immediate world, often results in a smug sense of security.
As a parent your best response is constant communication and monitoring.
It takes a lot of work to police your tween’s cell phone activities. It is important that you are up for the task. The good news is that research reflects the positive effects of random monitoring. Interestingly, some studies have found that ‘perceived monitoring’ is very effective. Translated this means that kids who believe their parents are monitoring their behavior are less likely to engage in concerning behaviors regardless of whether a parent is actually following through. Despite this revelation however you are of course best served following through.
A parent’s life before tween possession of a cell phone is comparatively easy. Cell phones represent a potential set of stresses that your parents were not required to manage. There’s sanctity in the solitude of a life without cell phones and social networking. Once you hand your tween the device, there is no turning back. Welcome to new age parenting!