KIDS grow and change quickly — but technology changes even faster.
From cellphones and smartphones to tablets and e-readers, and the countless applications available for each, it can be tough to determine when your child is ready to go wireless.
Centerstone therapist Tina Durham, who deals with a 13-year-old of her own who has limited access to technology at home, offers a guide to many clients wrestling with high stress about high tech.
“If they have enough responsibility to maintain good grades, a lot of them will be responsible enough to follow rules with a cellphone or something else as well,” she said.
When it comes to cellphones, Durham recommends keeping it simple for the elementary school set. Try a pre-programmed phone that can only send and receive calls from set numbers. A center button can be pushed for an emergency.
“I think the biggest issue with young people is safety,” said Tammie LeClerc, a Northside Middle School teacher with a 17- and 20-year-old at home.
Durham also pointed out that simple, less expensive phones are less likely to be stolen, yet they offer kids a quick link to parents or family members should they need help.
When shopping for computers, Durham said a desktop option is the best bet for most families. They typically are less expensive than laptops, and because they are stationary, parents can more easily monitor their kids’ activity.
Still, even with these guidelines in place, she said parents need to set firm guidelines and be aware of the content their kids access.
LaClerc suggests collecting all devices at the end of each day and checking call logs, texts sent and received and browser histories.
“If kids know you’ll really be checking,” LeClerc said, “they’ll do self-monitoring.”
Young people with parental-imposed boundaries with technology are going to be more apt to use them without serious problems, LeClerc and Durham said.
Columbus parent Rachel Quisenberry frequently has told her 9-year-old son, Christopher, “You get your privacy when you get your mortgage.”
He wanted a cellphone when he was 6, but mom refused because his day already had built-in supervision throughout.
At home today, he uses hand-held games, a laptop and a Nook reader — all under her watchful eye in an open area and only after being given permission to turn on the devices after homework is done.
His computer surfing is restricted by her preset filters.
“There’s no negotiation about this at my house,” she said.
It’s also important to note the fear of a high phone bill because of excessive text messaging isn’t the only thing to be concerned about.
“I trust him,” Quisenberry said. “It’s the other people online and elsewhere out there I don’t trust.”
And if grades start to slip, parents should be prepared to limit their kids’ time spent on the devices, Durham said.
“And ironically, electrical cords can also start to disappear,” Durham said, adding that she has hidden some in her locked car trunk and elsewhere to ensure her kids can’t log on without her knowing.
Whatever the rules are, be sure to communicate them clearly, and then be prepared to enforce them.
“A lot of parents forget that they’re the ones in control,” LeClerc said.
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