Expert Parent Advice

Keeping Kids Safe Online

What is the appropriate age for your child to have a cell phone? What are the rules and responsibilities for technology? How do you keep your kids safe online? These are important issues for parents of tweens and teens.

I’m Amy McCready with Positive Parenting Solutions and I’m proud to partner with    Kids ‘R’ Kids for the Expert Parenting Advice Series. Today’s topic is technology and the ground rules to put in place to keep your kids safe.

Let’s tackle the topic of cell phones first. We see kids as young as 8 and 10 with cell phones now. Is that too young? You’ll know your child is ready for a cell phone when you can answer YES to the following questions.

  1. Does she need a phone? Are there times when she’ll be away from you, such as staying after school for sports? Is she in a carpool that requires her to coordinate rides and pick up locations? 
  2. Will she demonstrate the maturity and responsibility to care for a phone by keeping it charged and not losing it? 
  3. Will she adhere to your family rules for cell phone use without whining or badgering?

If the answer to all three questions is yes, your child may be ready for a cell phone. But don’t make the leap quite too quickly. If your child begs you for a cell phone, ask him to prepare a proposal on why he NEEDS one. Be very clear that “because everyone else has one” isn’t a good answer. Creating the proposal will foster his critical thinking and presentation skills. If you feel he’s made a compelling argument and meets the 3 criteria I mentioned, it may be time to go phone shopping!  Remember, he doesn’t need a fancy phone – a bare-bones model will do the job.

Let’s talk about some ground rules for technology – cell phones, gaming devices, and computers. The most important thing to cover is that access to technology is a privilege, not a right. If kids don’t adhere to your family rules for technology, the privilege goes away. Period. 

Here are a few family rules to consider:

  1. Require passwords to your children’s email and social media accounts. Let your kids know you will periodically check their text messages, emails, and social media pages. It’s not spying because you are giving them fair warning that you’ll be checking. Remind them it’s your job to keep them safe.
  2. Your children must honor the technology curfew. Phones, computers and gaming devices must be turned off during meals and by 9:00PM each night (or earlier if your child is in middle school).
  3. Bedrooms are off-limits for technology. Require computers, gaming devices, and cell phones be used in public spaces and charged in a central area such as the kitchen. 

There are additional suggestions and warning signs that you need to know to keep kids safe online. You can find those in the interactive that goes along with this video. 

I’m Amy McCready for Kids ‘R’ Kids and I’ll see you next time.