Teens and cellphones: Advice for keeping them safe

Today’s teens face a very different world than many of their parents ever experienced. Never before have teens had so many opportunities to be connected to one another and also have the freedom to have their voice heard in society.

That translates into some amazing opportunities for them and at the same time opens them to risk at an earlier age and consequences with lifelong implications.

And, arguably, no piece of technology plays a bigger role in connecting teens today than the cellphone. So how do we as parents find a happy medium? How do we stay on top of what’s happening on our teen’s device without turning into FBI agents?

First, the best way to find out how your teens are using their cell phones is to simply ask them. Phones are more about people and relationships than technology. Talk to them about friends and school and you may learn more about how their connectedness affects them personally. If a situation is especially stressful, remind them that sometimes sitting down and talking to someone is often more effective than letting a frustration continue through social media. And, most definitely ask an adult at school to get involved if is something that is especially overwhelming.

Secondly, have open conversations with your teens about your family’s expectations. Although it is best to set the expectations prior to them receiving their first phone, it’s never too late to talk about how you see them using their device. Remind them that they represent your family in all their communications whether they are face-to-face or through social media. Maybe your expectations include phones off at the dinner table, in the car or at a certain point in the evening? Not sure where to start? Check out the advice offered by author Josh Shipp in his article entitled “Teen Cell Phone Contract” at http://joshshipp.com/teen-cell-phone-contract/. The article includes a Family Cell Phone Agreement you can download to use as a discussion piece with your teen.

Most teens will give you a roll of the eyes the minute you bring up being safe on the internet. However, things do happen. Reassure them that you trust them but in the case of an emergency you want to know that you have access to their online accounts. Nothing could be more frustrating than to wait for access to social media accounts when you’re facing a crisis. Insist that you know passwords for their accounts. If they are reluctant to give those to you, ask that they write them on a piece of paper and place them in an envelope. Keep the envelope sealed and ask them on occasion to update the information. Accessibility in a timely manner can make a huge difference in the event of an emergency.

It takes a village to raise a family. Encourage family members to join your teen’s social media circles. Maybe you don’t have Twitter, but you know of a niece who does. Don’t be afraid to encourage other family members to be involved in a teen’s life on social media. Not only will they build stronger relations with your teen, but they will also have an insight into your teen’s social life.

Remember that no teen is perfect and that they will make choices that sometimes disappoint you–that’s part of the learning process! Taking time to build strong relations with your teen will go a long way. Staying connected is important. Just ask any teen!

Want to learn more about talking to your teen about cell phones? Check out these articles.

Cari Teske, Integrated Learning Specialist

Cari Teske, Integrated Learning Specialist

Cari Teske is an Integrated Learning Specialist with Area Education Agency 267 based out of Marshalltown. She can be reached cteske@aea267.k12.ia.us for more information.

AEA 267 serves over 60,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

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