When I was younger, my parents knew who my friends were. They knew their parents, when I would be at their house, and what time I would be returning. If I decided to walk to a different friend’s house, I was required to either call my parents first or return home and get permission. Planning was an essential skill we were taught early in life.
Now that cellphones have replaced our landlines, it is much easier to keep tabs on our children. We feel safer knowing they can contact us immediately. Parents feel safer knowing their child has a cellphone and can even track their location on most phones. However, do you really know whom your kids are communicating with on their cellphone? Your child has access to much more than you realize, and strangers have access to your child through their phones.
If your child has a cellphone, it is important to monitor it on a regular basis. Who is your child talking to on the phone? They will always say it is a “friend,” because they truly feel like this person is someone they can trust. Unfortunately, kids are quick to trust people they don’t really know and pass along personal information that could put them in danger. If you don’t know this person or their parents, then your child should not be talking to them.
What apps have they downloaded? Many social media apps are popular among teenagers. Younger children hear about apps and want to explore them, but this opens the door to many dangerous situations. If your child wants to be on social media, talk with them about an appropriate age they will be allowed to create accounts.
Games can seem harmless as well, but hackers can use them to get information from your child’s phone or attempt to talk to with them. Educate yourself about social media apps and check your child’s phone regularly to ensure they have not downloaded anything that could put them at risk.
Cyberbullying is also a risk. Children need to learn appropriate social skills and healthy relationships with their friends. These interactions can be easily monitored in person but become difficult when they occur on cellphones. It is too easy for a child to send a message or text that hasn’t been well thought out. These messages quickly spread to other children and escalate. Encourage your child to socialize with their friends face to face and save phone interactions for important calls or emergency situations.
It’s also important to model appropriate cellphone use. Our children will imitate what they see adults doing. If you want to see your child engaging with people face to face, then allow them to see you doing this as well.
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