Part of being a parent is talking to your kids about safety. It starts when they’re small, when you warn them of the dangers of talking to strangers or running into the road, and continues into the teenage years and even young adulthood, with conversations about things like safe driving and avoiding illegal drugs. And when somewhere along the way you decide that your teen or pre-teen is ready to have their own smartphone, it’s important to be conscientious about having a frank conversation about smartphone safety as well. Following are some tips that can help you cover the most important points about smartphone safety with your kids.
The first thing you want to do is spend some time figuring out what you want the rules and boundaries to be. It’s not a good idea to wing it — go into the conversation with a clear idea of how you are going to handle the issue of cell phone safety. Are you going to make it a rule that they can’t use the phone after a certain time at night? Do you want to approve any apps before your teen downloads them? If you’re not clear about the rules, your teen will be frustrated when they get in trouble for something they didn’t realize would be a problem, so it’s important to be as transparent as possible.
If you’re going to use monitoring software so that you can check in on what your teen is doing and ensure that they’re safe, make sure that you tell them upfront that you’re doing so. If you don’t, they’ll feel betrayed when they discover it later (and chances are that they will discover it at some point!)
Teens want to know that their parents trust their judgement, and they want to be treated like the young adults that they are. Any suggestion that you’re going to be monitoring their online activity or limiting their smartphone usage may be perceived by your teen as a sign that you don’t trust them, or that you are treating them like a little kid.
Address this by letting your teen know that a smartphone is a privilege, and you wouldn’t be giving them that privilege if you didn’t trust them to make good decisions and act responsibly. But even smart, responsible teens can be victims of cyberbullies or online predators. Make it clear that it isn’t them that you don’t trust — it’s the unscrupulous people that exist in the cyber world who may try to target your teen. It’s your job as a parent to protect them from those situations.
Acknowledge your teen’s feelings by asking for their input and really listening to what they have to say. You may be surprised to find that they have concerns of their own about online safety, and they may have valuable input to give on how you can help keep them safe online. They may also have valid concerns about any rules that you propose, and it doesn’t hurt to listen to them with an open mind.
You don’t have to agree with everything your teen says, and you can and should reserve the right to make a final decision. But being willing to listen and negotiate with your teen validates their sense of themselves as an independent person who is nearing adulthood and deserves some input into rules that affect them.
Monitoring software that allows you to track your teen’s smartphone use is a valuable safety tool for parents. To find out more about how monitoring software can help you, contact us to get our free trial.