We bought Temera her first cell phone when she turned 12. She had been asking for one way earlier than that, but we just didn’t see the need for her to have one while in elementary school. With Junior High looming, we thought it might not be such a bad idea for her to have one. I have to admit, I think I wanted her to get one for selfish reasons… I wanted to be able to reach her at a moment’s notice. So we got her a phone for her birthday and it really has been useful for both of us.
We can text any time: while she is at school, when she is at a friend’s house, and when we are angry with each other and find that texting to talk things through sometimes is easier than yelling at each other in person. It has saved many a fight.
What we decided not to get on her phone is internet access. She doesn’t have a smartphone and phone calls and texting are as much as she is capable of. Honestly, having access to the internet scares me a little. Okay, a lot. We talk to our kids all the time about online bullying and cyber stalking, but until one of your kids experiences first hand, it is just one more thing we tell our kids not to do.
I was really fortunate last week to sit in on an online presentation by At&T. This Mobile Safety Webinar was all about keeping your kids safe when they start using cellular devices. AT&T has created this program to do two things, a) educate families about wireless safety, and b) provide resources, tips and tools to help families stay connected, and stay safe. While my own kids (12, 10, 8) are not on sites like Facebook and Twitter, I know many of their friends are and have been for a while. I know it is inevitable that one day they will want to sign up, but I won’t let that happen until I think they are old enough (and mature enough) to handle whatever might come their way.
Out of a survey of 1000 parents and 500 kids ages 8 – 17, AT&T found that the average age for a child to receive their first cell phone was 12.1. I guess we were right on the money with that one.
The fact that pretty much everyone has a cell phone these days just brings up so many other safety issues, some that can be downright dangerous.
Did you know that when it comes to our kids and safety …
- Over HALF have been in a car with someone who was texting and driving
- Over 1 in 5 have received a mean text message
- Almost half have a friend who received a sexual picture or message
- 69% have received a call from an unknown number.
(Statistics from the AT&T Mobile Safety Webinar)
Pretty frightening statistics.
The real question is… what can we do about it? There are a few things you can do right now to help
1. Set rules. Just because your child has a cell phone doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with rules. No texting at the dinner table, no phones in your bedroom at night (charge them elsewhere), if they are of driving age – NO texting or talking at all while in the car.
2. Limit texting. For $4.99 per month, AT&T has a product called Smart Limits for wireless. You can set a limit for the number of texts you want your child to be able to send.
3. There is an app called “Family Map” that you can download on your individual phones. You sign up everyone in your family and then you can log in and see where each phone is at any time. It’s an added safety device so you can track the phone (and track your child). You can even set alerts so they have to check in with you at specific times.
4. As adults, if we model good cell phone behavior, our children will follow. WE need to stop texting while driving, using our phones at the dinner table and checking email all day long while we are with our family.
As for the online bullying stuff. My kids know it happens. I share every article and YouTube video that comes my way in regards to kids being bullied. I want them to understand how dangerous it is. I think they get it. Temera has said she has no interest in having a Facebook page. I have to applaud her for that… but I know that one day she’ll change her mind. I also know that hiding the realities of online bullying and sexting aren’t going to make them go away.
Join the AT&T Mobile Safety Twitter party on October 30 at 2p ET!
The hashtag is #ATTMobileSafety
For more information: http://twtvite.com/
My participating in the AT&T Mobile Safety Webinar and the writing of this post has been compensated. Facts included in this post are provided by AT&T. Personal opinions are entirely my own.