If you have pre-teens or teenagers, you are probably facing the issues that come along with cell phones. Texting may be at the top of the list!  Life isn’t as simple as it used to be when we were children…there are new tools of communication that have become the new lifelines, but, unfortunately, along with these gadgets come issues. Setting boundaries with your kids about texting is important as a parent.

Common issues with texting

These “issues” range all the way from inappropriate texting and “sexting” (including sending photos that you would be ashamed of), to driving while texting and people endangering not only themselves, but also the other people in their car and on the road.

Before You Give Your Kid a Cell Phone

Be sure to go over your rules and regulations for cell phone usage. Most schools do not allow texting during class, so that might be one of the topics that you discuss with your pre-teen or teenager. Each parent will, of course, have their own rules about texting, however it is best that you lay all of the rules out on the table and explain what the consequences will be if they step out of line.

Anna Post, of the Emily Post Institute recently spoke to UrbanMommies about manners and technology.  Gadgets can be entertaining and convenient, but every family should develop rules about the use of technology (for parents too..).  You will want to decide if these devices are allowed at the dinner table and if there is a time in the evening when they are turned off.  In addition to a downloadable ‘tip sheet’, the Top Ten Cell Phone Manners guide developed by the Emily Post Institute is very helpful.  Our favs?

  1. Be courteous to those you are with; turn off your phone if it will be interrupting a conversation or activity.
  2. Don’t make calls in a library, theater, church or from your table in a restaurant.
  3. Don’t text during class or a meeting at your job.
  4. Private info can be forwarded, so don’t text it.

Consequences of Phone Misuse

Taking the cell phone away might be counterproductive to the idea of giving your child a cell phone. Ultimately, the reason to give them a cell phone is to make it easy for you to contact them or them to contact you when necessary, so threatening to take it away when the rules are broken is a moot point.

Think about other things that you could take away, like their computer or game consoles or go back to the old-fashioned, “You’re grounded!”.  You may view texting in class less of a “crime” than texting while driving, so you can set up specific consequences for particular offenses or just one consequence for any time they are caught breaking the rules. Either way, if you lay out the rules and consequences prior to handing over the cell phone, you will know that you have at least made yourself clear.

Spy Tools – Be Your Own Detective

Okay, maybe it doesn’t sound very appealing at first, but when you think about how much you want to protect your kids and keep them safe when they are not with you in this scary and unpredictable world, the new “spy tools” that are popping out on the market can easily help you track your kid’s texting behaviours.

Putting a Stop to Texting While Driving

Some auto insurance companies have offered the option to parents who have driving-aged teenagers to install a camera in the car. This camera does not stop the teenager from texting while driving, but it will ensure that the parent will find out about it.  There is also software that detects that a cell phone is in a moving vehicle and prevents texting abilities.

As awareness spreads about the dangers of driving while texting, more companies are coming up with software, plug-ins, a special bluetooth installed in the car keys that disable cell phone emissions, and many other ideas to keep people from texting and driving.

It is vital to understand that times have changed since we were teens and to keep the communication open with your kids about texting. Whether you decide to spy on your kids or give them the benefit of the doubt, you will definitely want to have the discussion about texting and all of the issues that arise with it in order to ensure that they understand that you are “in the loop” and that there will be consequences if they misuse the trust that you are giving to them when you hand them the cell phone.