What to do when your child gets a cell phone

Published: Tuesday, April 9 2013 3:10 p.m. MDT

However, Krawiec said it shouldn't just be about the negatives of a teen's usage of a phone, but the things they are doing right with it.

"Parents should be able to monitor when things are going well, as well as see the negatives. ... What are the good things that parents would be proud of?" she said. "It's not just about catching them, it's about having trust and seeing the positive."

When parents are monitoring their children's phone usage they can deal with both the good and the bad as they come, Krawiec said. If parents are aware, they will be able to catch the smaller things teens shouldn't be doing with their phones, and prevent problems that may come with no supervision, all while fostering the good habits teenagers are creating.

"Things are much easier to deal with when small. And then when you are catching them doing good things you can teach the difference," she said. "Small encouragements are powerful, as well as consequences."

When it comes to texting and driving for Debra Hulse, a 17-year-old from Prosser Wash., it's been more effective for her parents to advise against it instead of having others tell her not to do it.

"Having my parents tell me not to do it, it's kind of more personal," Hulse said. "If I do it, I'm disappointing my parents. I think that's why it's important to me."

The same concept goes for 14-year-old Kylie Black, specifically for the type of media content she uses her iPhone to view.

"For me it's just kind of common sense. You know not to look at (certain things), and if I did, I would feel guilty if I disobeyed my parents," said the Orem teen.

Black's parents are aware of what she does with her phone, and she has many friends whose parents have controls on their phones. Black has also developed her own ways to keep from being too distracted by her phone when she has things to do.

"If I know that I have homework then I'll just put it in a whole different room, or if I'm sleeping then I'll just put it under my bed so that I can't see or hear it," Black said.

Parenting with phones

One reason many families have issues with cellphone usage is the fact that parents are raising children who have something they never had when they were young — personal technology devices and access to the World Wide Web any time, anywhere, said Joani Geltman, a clinical social worker and parenting expert in Boston.

"Adults, parents have given kids all of these tools — iPhones, iPads, iPods — without thinking it through," Geltman said. "They haven't thought, 'What do I need to watch out for?' ... The kids have issues like wasting time on their technology or social issues because of using the technology in inappropriate ways, then parents find out and have to move backwards."

The biggest parent-teen issue Geltman has encountered when phones have started making appearances in a family is how exhausted teenagers become, and how confused parents are about it. Parents often don't anticipate children will use their phones after they've gone to bed, but it does happen, and healthy sleeping patterns begin to crumble, she said.

"Distraction is another huge issue. Teens' and childrens' brains already have enough tasks to do — they have to do the normal, everyday things that kids have to do and now they have all of these other opportunities," she said. "If you have a choice between calculus homework or other options that are out there, which would you rather do? It's providing too much temptation ... and for some reason adults think that (teens) have the control to turn that stuff off."

Once parents see the necessity of setting rules beforehand to avoid frustrating teens with new regulations, phones in the family can become more about the positives and possibilities.

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