Education for Parents

A Cell Phone Responsibility Contract for Kids

For many parents, one of the toughest decisions they’ll ever have to make is whether their child is ready to handle the responsibility having of a cell phone yet.  Today, children as young as first and second grade are asking for their own phone and, in some cases, they are getting it.  With the rise in school violence and mall shootings, parents seem to feel a sense of relief by giving their children a cell phone and being able to monitor their location at all times. Regardless of the reason and age you deem appropriate to give your child his or her own cell phone, it is wise to give them a cell phone contract to go with it.  By giving them a cell phone contract and having them sign on the dotted line, agreeing to all terms and conditions, you are putting the responsibility in their hands.  If rules in the contract are broken, consequences will follow, as they do in many real life situations.  Below is a general contract that I’ve created for my own daughter and have shared with many friends and family!  Use it, make changes to it and add or delete items as you see fit.

Kids and cell phones at school.

  1. I will not give my phone number to anyone that I do not personally know well and completely trust.
  2. I will have my phone with me at all times.  It will remain in my backpack while I am at school and will not come out until school lets out.
  3. While I am at church, a movie theater, the library or any other area that requires silence, my phone will be on vibrate or silenced completely.
  4. If my parents call or text me, I must answer and/or reply, regardless of where I am.
  5. If my phone is protected with a password, I must always provide my parents with it.
  6. My parents are allowed to check my phone at any time, day or night.
  7. The cell phone is not to be brought to the dinner table at home or while at a restaurant.
  8. My phone will be shut off from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m.
  9. When I return home from school, I will not use my phone until my homework and chores are completed.
  10. I will not use my cell phone to send threatening messages or any inappropriate messages of any kind.
  11. If I go over my minutes and/or text messages at any time during the month, I will give my parents the phone until the next billing cycle begins.
  12. I will not use my cell phone to take embarrassing photos of myself, my friends or anyone else.
  13. I will not use my phone to go on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site unless I have received permission from my parents.
  14. I will not download any apps without first asking my parents for permission.
  15. I will always accept text messages from family locator services so that my parents can know where I am.
  16. If my voice mail is full, I will delete them.
  17. If I receive a message or phone call that scares me, threatens me or offends me in any way, I will talk to my parents about it and show it to them if possible.
  18. I will not let anyone else borrow or use my cell phone. If someone needs to make a phone call from your phone for emergency purposes, make sure YOU are dialing the number so YOU know that it is local and not a call that will add charges to your account.
  19. If I break the phone, drop it in water, lose it or damage it in any way, I will replace it with my own allowance and/or money earned.
  20. If I break one of the rules above, I agree to talk about it with my parents and decide how to make positive changes so it does not happen again.

Social Media Tips for Kids

While some parents believe allowing kids to have a social media account of any kinds is absurd, the reality is that many kids today have one as soon as they’re old enough to. All too often, kids get a Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or Instagram account even before they’re old enough simply by lying about their age and going behind their parents’ backs.  Parents tend to work long hours, leaving their children home alone, in the care of a relative or friend or waiting at a local library after school.  Even parents that are home with their children may not be aware that their children are online and chatting with hundreds of strangers online each and every day.  Whether you allow your children to be online or not, the best choice is to be proactive and provide them with ways to be safe online while they’re at home, at school o r at a friend’s house.  Below are my top 5 social media tips for kids, compiled with information from the FBI and the Amber Alert GPS website:

1.  NEVER give out personal information.  If your parents allow you to get a Facebook account, it is because they trust that you’ll be responsible and keep your family’s safety in mind. In order to do this, you have to be sure not to share any personal information on your Facebook page that may tell a stranger where you live, how to contact you or what your full name is.  You can have a nickname on your Facebook profile that your family and friends will recognize to protect your identity from strangers.

2. DON’T add anyone that you don’t personally know and consider a good friend.  If someone sends you a friend request and you don’t know them personally, do not accept them as a friend.  Believe it or not, many people on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are lying about who they are and the pictures they use are not really them.  They may look cute, they may say they go to your high school but all of it may be lies.  Bottom line is, if you don’t recognize the picture and don’t know for sure who they person really is, do not add them as a friend.  Someone that says they are a 16 year old boy on their page may really be a 60 year old man waiting for the chance to cause you harm.

Social Media Tips for Your Kids

3. NEVER agree to meet anyone in person.  If your friends on Facebook and Twitter are really your friends, they’ll call you when they want to meet you at the mall, go to a movie or hang out at the park.  Do not agree to meet anyone that you meet online, regardless of what they may offer.  Some perpetrators (people that want to cause harm to others) lie and say they are directors, producers and celebrities that want to hire you as a model or actor.  Do not believe this and immediately stop all contact with this individual.

4.  TELL.  If you encounter anyone online, whether in a chat room, on Facebook or in an email, that scares you and makes you feel uncomfortable, immediately tell an adult.  Not only will you be saving yourself and your family from harm but you’ll also be helping protect other children online, If you do not feel comfortable telling your parents, tell an adult.  It can be a teacher, a counselor, a police officer or anyone that you and your parents would trust.  

5. DON’T TAG PHOTOS and don’t allow others to tag you.  This may be a really fun feature on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but what it really does is tell strangers where you are, where you live, what area you hang out in and where they can find you.  Set your account settings to prevent anyone from tagging you on their photos and do not ever tag yourself.  Your friends will know where you are by simply seeing the photo and asking you in person.

For more information on safety tips and online protection for your family, see our article titled Internet Safety Tips for Your Family.

Internet Safety for Your Family

With the extent of information available on the Internet, it’s important to do your job as a parent and ensure your children are browsing the Internet safely. You need to be informed and ensure that your child is well aware of the dangers of communicating online. Take a look at some of the statistics below (Source: Crimes Against Children Research Center factsheet & FBI Parents Guide to Internet Safety) related to the dangers your children face while surfing the net:

  • There are more than five million online predators targeting children between 10-14 years old.
  • There’s almost a 100% chance that your child will encounter an online predator while chatting online.
  • About ¼ of the children that ended up communicating with a sexual predator told their parents.
  • It takes between two to four weeks for a sexual predator to lure your child from a strictly online relationship to a personal, one on one meeting.
  • More than 60% of the websites online have some form of elicit, pornographic content.
  • Only 15% of children said their parents know the sites they visit online and regular monitor them using the computer.
  • 1/2 of all children have dealt with bullying online and 25% of them have had to endure it repeatedly.
  • Almost ¾ of all children lured by sexual predators were teens between twelve and fifteen. About 30% of them began communication through social networking.
  • Over 70% of children receive messages online from people they do not know.
  • Almost 70% of children, both boys and girls, admitted to sending nude and semi nude photos and sexually explicit messages to friends.

    With such shocking statistics, it’s surprising that so many parents are still unaware of what their children are doing while spending hours in front of their computers and surfing the Internet from their smart phones. With so many resources available to parents today, it has become easier to keep track of your child’s whereabouts online, even without them knowing about it. There are countless Internet monitoring software programs that will keep track of sites your children visit, messages they are sending and even what they are writing and posting on social media sites.

    Social Media Monitoring: Twitter, Facebook etc.

    True Care: Social Media Monitoring software

    I have been using the same software, True Care, for years and believe whole heartedly that it helps me keep my child safe while using the Internet. There are many programs out there so do your research and choose the best one to suit your family’s needs.

    True Care is a program that offers a wide variety of useful features when it comes to social media monitoring. It helps protect your children from potentially dangerous interactions on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and Twitter.

    It is specifically for monitoring one of the most dangerous aspects of the Internet, social media networks. True Care provides email alerts that send you notifications of any suspicious online behavior. With this software, you’ll be able to access names, pictures and profiles of all friends on your children’s Facebook page and other social media outlets. It also features access to screening tools that help identify online predators before they contact your child further. With True Care, you’ll be able to monitor your child’s online social media usage and communication regardless of the computer or mobile device they are accessing it from.

    If you have a difficult time understanding what your children are writing online, possibly because of the slang terms they use or the words common in teenage language, True Care can help. It provides an online dictionary that is updated regularly with commonly used slang terms and acronyms. This program is also very easy to use, even if you are not so computer literate. It also provides a 30 day risk free trial.

    Get More Tips on Your Child’s Safety Online

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation also offers helpful tips and plenty of education for parents to help keep their children safe online. By going to their page, you can learn about signs to look for that your child may be at risk online, what you should do if you suspect your child is communicating with an online predator and how to minimize the possibility that your child will fall prey to an online predator in the future.

    Take advantage of any and all resources available to protect your children. There are many available and they are all available at your finger tips from your computer or mobile device. For more information and statistics on crimes against children, visit the Crimes Against Children Research Center.