by Jude Foulston,  new mom, wife, entrepreneur,  friend and crafter who’s loving the challenge of trying to  keep it all together on a daily basis. She works for  TomorrowToday

I realize that there are situations where it’s convenient for kids to have cell phones but we must remember that with this convenience comes responsibility. Does the convenience of having a cell phone positively out weigh the risks that phones expose these kids to?

“When you hand kids phones today, you’re giving them powerful communications and production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to Web sites. They can broadcast their status and their location. They can download just about everything in the world. If you think your children’s technological savvy is greater than their ability to use it wisely, pay attention to the gap. Times may have changed, but parenting hasn’t. We’re still the parents. And it’s our job to say “no, not yet.”  (Source: https://www.commonsensemedia.org.)

I do think it’s important to ask what the phone is being used for – if it is to have contact with a handful of people then are you limiting the airtime per month, and checking their internet access? If it’s going to be used as a gaming platform then certainly limit airtime and make it known that the phone is meant as a gaming platform and nothing else. There’s no taking back the experience when your 11 year old is exposed to completely unsuitable adult content via his phone, so whatever the reason, make sure these rules are adhered to and that you are comfortable enough with the handset so that you can monitor the activity on the phone on a regular basis.

Speaking of Adult Content Management – did you know that Facebook has an age limit of 13 years? According to recent SA research, 50% of the Generation Y that were interviewed (average age of 18) use Facebook as a search engine. What you use Facebook for and what your 13 year old use it for could be two different scenarios.

Which leads me onto the next question – perhaps the question isn’t whether your kids are ready for the responsibility that being exposed to the internet brings, but more importantly is how are you teaching your children to interact in this space? What responsibility are you, the parent, taking on? Yes, at times it seems that technology is part of these kids DNA and it’s hard to believe you can teach them new stuff in this space, but just as you would teach your children how to interact on a social level, not to speak to strangers, etc, you should also be teaching kids the same principles in the online space.

Connect with your kids here, teach them, get comfortable in their space. Beat them at their own games, and hopefully with more knowledge and information sharing between families the technology and content that is out there won’t be so scary for all of us.

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