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Setting the ground rules for phone usage before getting your 13-year-old his first cell phone

Kavitha Ravi Kavitha Ravi 4 Mins Read

Kavitha Ravi Kavitha Ravi


Planning to get your child her first mobile phone? Make sure that she follows these ground rules for safe usage of the device

Pre-teen to 18+
Setting the ground rules for phone usage before getting your 13-year-old his first cell phone

A cell phone is just about the most thrilling addition to a teen's life. It opens up many avenues of communication and entertainment for young people. The possibilities seem to be limitless, but handling them responsibly is very important. After all, the cell phone is no longer an instrument for just making conversation but has so many other functions.

A study conducted by Murdoch University in Perth, Australia among teenagers in the 13-16 years age group found that poor-quality sleep associated with late-night texting or calling was linked to a decline in mental health, such as depressed moods and declines in self-esteem and coping ability, according to a report in The Guardian.

The onus of guiding children through the exciting and often, confusing world of mobile phone usage, falls on the parents. They have to set the rules and enforce them from the moment the phone reaches the child. While a smartphone can be a valuable learning tool, the exposure it gives your child can be overwhelming and at times, dangerous as well. As a parent, you need to safeguard your child from the pitfalls that a phone can bring into her life.

So here are some rules to lay down for your child's cell phone usage:

Limiting screen time

It is easy to get hooked on the cell phone and all that it has to offer. Adults these days can hardly take their eyes off their phones even when having a conversation with other people. So for children, it can soon turn into an obsession. Limit the time your child spends on the phone so she doesn't become addicted. Talk to her about the number of hours she can use the phone for in a day, and be firm about not taking the phone to bed. This habit, if left unchecked in the beginning, can lead to a lack of sleep, and affect her focus at school.

Camera restrictions

Taking pictures and videos are a part and parcel of having a phone. But you need to educate your child about taking the right kind of pictures. This means that he must be careful about clicking photos of himself, his family, and friends. Have some specific rules about selfies and where to take them - nothing compromising or risque even in the name of fun. Remind him that in the wrong hands those fun pictures and videos can lead to disaster. So, advise him that the best course of action is to not take them in the first place. He also needs to keep other people's privacy in mind while clicking photos.

Sharing is not always caring

If you have to give your preteen a phone, then make sure that she does not download inappropriate data. Also, restrict your child from uploading any data on the Internet, as she may not be aware of the veracity of the information she is sharing. Children need to understand that even though they might think a download is harmless, it might not always be what it seems. Help your child understand that she must ask your permission to be safe when downloading or uploading any data.

No phone during school

While most schools strictly prohibit children from bringing phones to the school campus, children might try to sneak them into classrooms. So ensure that there is a designated drop-off area for phones in the house. This is where the children should be told to leave their phones every day before going to school and collect them once they get back. This leaves no room for doubt.

Phone etiquette in public

Teenagers may sometimes be so engrossed in their mobile phones that they do not see the time and place that they are doing it. Make your tween/teen understand that whipping out the mobile phone in certain public places and at gatherings, may be considered rude. When he is in the company of his family or having a conversation with another person, he is not to meddle with his phone. This can be enforced during meals or outings with the family if the parents feel the need. You must also advise your teenager to keep his phone switched off or in silent mode in a movie theatre or in a public place where cellphones are not allowed.

Parents are required to lead by example if they truly want their children to cooperate. Children often learn things by observing the behavior of adults around them. So that means no phones for you when you are driving and sleeping. Let your children know that having a phone in their teens is a privilege and that abusing that privilege comes at a cost. While children may try to work their way around the rules, it is up to the parents to keep an eye on the children's activities.

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