Every parent should draw up a contract to monitor their kid's cell phone
A phone contract between you and your kids is an excellent way to teach some basic rules of phone ownership
Should parents monitor cell phones? Some parents may think it’s a breach of privacy. But many do it out of concern for their child’s safety. Whatever the reason is, parents can be transparent about their intentions. You don’t have to sneak around trying to get your kid’s phone to read their messages without their consent. You can be upfront about it and let them know that you will be checking on their online activity from time to time.
All you have to do is let them know this in advance before giving them the phone. Just draw up a contract that both you and your kid will have to sign. You might think a contract is a little extreme, but it’s always good to have something in black and white. This teaches your child on the importance of honouring a contract, while being transparent with them at the same time. Don’t make these mistakes when getting your child their first phone.
1. Get your kids to agree. Tell them that you can inspect their phones anytime. If you don’t and are caught looking at their phones, you risk creating a situation where your child keeps secrets or worse, rebel by leading a separate life online.
2. Establish rules early. The best time to draw up a contact on your kid’s phones is when you give the phone to your kid (see how to create a cell phone contract below). It is easier to relax the rules as you go along than suddenly introduce new rules.
3. Discuss responsible behaviour. Tell your kids if you expect to be their friends on Facebook or that laptops should be kept downstairs at bedtime. Remind them that any text can be forwarded to an unintended audience. Furthermore texts that involve drugs, sexting, or other illegal things can get them into real trouble.
4. Don’t freak out. Keep calm when you read something unexpected on your kid’s phone. Perhaps even prepare to see things that you won’t like. Then thinking about how you want to talk to your kid about what you have read. By keeping calm, your child may feel safe enough to volunteer even more information.
5. Keep-up-to-date. Learn about new technology that your child may want to use. It is also useful to learn acronyms or internet slang. You can ask your children to explain them. Use this as an opportunity to bond with them.
6. Give support. Lucy Russell, director of campaigns at the Young Minds charity says cocooning kids is not the answer. Helping them if they are lost or confused is much more beneficial. “You have to have conversations so that they can ask for help,” says Russell. “Children are incredibly savvy in terms of technology, and they will find ways to do whatever it is you want them not to do. Parents are kidding themselves if they think they can control social media.”
If your answer to the question should parents monitor cell phones is yes, use these guidelines to create a phone contract. This contract is discussed and agreed between you and your older kids. Here’s what you can do:
- Discuss and agree on the responsibilities that comes with having a cell phone. E.g. I will not sent mean text to others, I will not text after 10pm.
- Discuss the consequences of not seeing those responsibilities through.
- Allow your teen to ask questions.
- Make yourself available to answer any questions that your teen may have about owning a phone and using it responsibly.
- Have a third party come in as a “witness” to the contract.
- Do not change the terms of the contract later on without the agreement of both parties.