The statistics are clear our environment and those of our children is changing, as technology becomes a necessary part of daily life. A study by Jonathan Douglas, Director of The National Literacy Trust in the United States, shows that “more children today own cell phones than books.”
While we may be surprised and sad to witness the end of childhood as we know it, we can neither ban our children from having a cell phone, nor ignore the dangers it poses. Taking on the cyber world may feel intimidating to most of us, yet it is our responsibility, as parents to equip our children to be safe in the world. So how do we ensure their virtual well being?
We install free safety features on their mobile devices, and we talk to our children in the same way we would educate them about appropriate touching, being safe around strangers, and sex. Communicating openly about cell phones is essential in empowering our children to protect themselves, bearing in mind that despite our best efforts they can always have access to illicit material through their friends.
Research shows that parents who communicate honestly with their children, have youngsters who are closer and more connected to their parents. They feel respected, consult with their parents when making decisions, and are less likely to engage in high risk behaviour. Open communication is more than a list of rules the parents enforce, it is a two way dialogue of explanations, discussions and debates between the parent and the child.
Here are some tips to begin talking about cell phones even before your children request one:
In age appropriate language talk about the fact that there are ‘good and bad’ people in the world, and we need to be wary of making friends with strangers, even if they say they are a child.
Explain that in the same way we do not give out personal information when someone phones our landline, we must keep our name, age and address private on our cell phone. Encourage your children to always ask you if they are unsure.
Make it clear to your youngsters that they should only use their real name when texting friends and should always use a fake name when playing online games. Also discourage them from joining chat rooms, and clicking on links.
Educate your child as to what a chat room is, and that should they feel the need to go into an online chat room, they should be weary of revealing who they are and where they are from, in fact, you might take the stance that your child never reveals their identity to anyone they might have met in a chat room
source: Inspired Parenting / Claire Marketos