Most children today loudly defend their need for cell phones as a necessary part of daily life -- and many parents agree. Owning a cell phone has become a right for children instead of a privilege issued for good behavior and school success.
When military parents are deployed or away from home for extended periods of time, supervision and discipline of children are often attempted through cell phone conversations. But supervising children from afar can give parents a false sense of security because children can call in from unapproved locations or disregard parental requests. Cell phones are only one tool for child supervision and parents should not solely rely on them. They do not equate to effective or safe supervision.
They also can cause problems between parents and their kids. As a juvenile probation officer, I often mediated disputes, criminal offenses, family and school arguments involving cell phone using children and their parents. Cell phones can cause serious problems for children when the call history, photos and downloads are not daily monitored by parents or a supervising adult.
Many military parents designate an hour in the evening after which there is no more non-emergency calls or texting, or they restrict use during family dinner times and collected at a certain hour and locked up safe until morning. Ironically, this rule is most often broken by parents themselves.
America's super-nanny, Dr. Deborah Tillman, gave some excellent cell phone advice when she wrote “Turn off the devices and turn in to your children. Love to a child means time.” And in that vein, love also means setting reasonable rules and crystal clear expectations for cell phone use by children. When the rules are known, there are no arguments or excuses.
Need some help coming up with cell phone rules for your military child? Here’s a cell phone contract you can use.
A Military Parent's Cell Phone Contract with Their Child
- It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you.
- I will always know the password for my phone.
- If my phone rings, answer it. Say hello. Use your manners. Do not ever ignore a call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever!
- At a pre-determined time, promptly hand me my phone every school night and every weekend night. It will be shut off for the night and turned back on in the morning.
- My phone does not go to school with you. Have an actual conversation with the people you might text. Texting is not a life skill. Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special phone consideration.
- If my phone falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, use some birthday money. Chances are good that this will happen, and you should be prepared.
- Do not use my phone to lie, fool, or deceive another human being or to involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend and stay out of the gossip crossfire.
- No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask me or another respected adult.
- Turn it off. Silence it. Put it away in public, especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; therefore, do not allow my phone to change that.
- Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high IQ. This is risky business and could ruin your teen age, college, adult and career life. Cyberspace is more powerful than you, and it is impossible to make anything of this magnitude disappear -- including a bad reputation.
- Don’t take a gazillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
- Leave my phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. My phone is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be more powerful than Fear of Missing Out.
- THERE ARE TWO GIVENS: (a) You will mess up. (b) I will sometimes take away my phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over - again - because we are in this together.
All-responsible and Powerful Parental Signature:
Always-Learning and Respectful Child Signature:
Linda Fredrickson retired as a juvenile probation officer, but continues to work with truant and at-risk children in her community in Southern California. She is the author of "8 Rights of Parent Leadership -- and How to Get Them Back!"