Set the rules for mobile phone use

Many of you may have given your teenager a phone for Christmas. If so, heaven help you. No matter how hard you try to control your teen's use of that new phone, you likely will fail.

Your teen will text every waking minute of the day and sleep with his or her phone at night. Go ahead, try to stop them. Once that phone lands in their hands, never expect to have an actual conversation with them ever again.

Therefore, giving a mobile phone to your youngster should come with rules.

So here are two lists of tips and rules to consider - one for parents, the other for kids.

The first is a list of tips from Safety Web, a cloud company that helps parents monitor the reputation, privacy and safety of kids online.

• Get educated and prepared. Talk to your kids about the dangers of inappropriate mobile phone use, including sexting and texting while driving.

• Select features carefully. Select only those phone features appropriate for the age of your child.

• Use parental controls. If your child has a smartphone, consider turning on parental controls to restrict use of objectionable websites.

• Limit usage. Set time limits on when and where they can use their phones.

• Use monitoring services. Look into services that can monitor what your children do on their phone. After all, who's paying the bills?

• Don't answer unknown calls. Tell your child not to answer calls or text messages from numbers they don't recognise. Teach them how to block unwanted calls.

• Pre-program numbers. Make sure their phone has all the important phone numbers.

• Advocate privacy. Teach your children the importance of keeping their phone number and other family numbers private.

• Restrict downloads. Make sure children don't download ringtones, games or other content without your consent.

The second list is my "Ten Commandments of Texting", which I created when I tried to limit my daughter's texting.

Your child will certainly tell you that his or her main form of communication with friends is through texting. Someone I know, for example, sends and receives about 35,000 texts a month. That comes down to about one per minute during a waking 18-hour day.

Here are the commandments I gave my daughter three years ago.

• No texting at the dinner table.

• No texting while in the car or talking with your family.

• No texting at events with the family.

• No texting at any time while in a restaurant with the family.

• No texting at school (unless at recess).

• No texting in shopping malls or grocery stores while with the family (unless it is to ask a family member not with you a shopping question).

• No texting after 9pm.

• No texting people who are in the same house as you.

• No going over the limit of texts (now she has unlimited texts after breaking this rule the first month).

• No answering friends' texts during the above situations.

Any violation of said restrictions results in complete revocation of all texting privileges. All of the above restrictions are subject to change (whenever I feel like it). AAP


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