What Every Parent Should Know About Cell Phones

According to the Pew Research Center, mobile phone use among teens ages 12 to 17 has climbed steadily from 63% in the fall of 2006 to 71% in early 20081. Mobile technology offers so many services, the increase is not a surprise. Today, cell phones can access the Internet, chat through text messaging, take photos, record video, download and listen to music, play games, update blogs, keep a calendar, and more. In addition, children are obtaining cell phones at younger ages because of increased affordability, safety, and convenience for parents.

However, many parents may worry about how all these fun & convenient features are being used by their child. Parents may have concerns about texting while driving, sexting, unfiltered Internet, and overuse charges. But, if parents keep current, keep communicating, and keep checking, they can minimize the risks and help children learn how to use mobile technology safely and responsibly.

Keep Current

If your child already has a cell phone, know what kinds of services the phone provides. If the phone has web access, call your service provider to discuss filter options. If you are considering purchasing a phone for your child, consider what kind of technology they will need and what is appropriate for their age. For example, most companies provide cell phone models without cameras, and, web access and texting can be disabled after purchase.

Talk to your service provider about different options for tracking or limiting minutes and texts. Consider using software that records all cell phone activities and shows all text messages (incoming and outgoing), call information, pictures and sound clips sent inside an MMS message.

Keep Communicating

Establish clear guidelines and expectations for cell phone use. Involve your child in this process. Discuss the dangers and risks of a cell phone, and let them suggest possible safeguards and solutions.

Make sure you specifically discuss the dangers of texting or talking on the phone while driving. A recent study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found some alarming statistics:

  • A driver reaching for a cell phone or any other electronic device is 1.4 times more likely to experience a car crash.

  • A car driver talking on their phone is 1.3 times more likely to get into an accident.

  • For every 6 seconds of drive time, a driver sending or receiving a text message spends 4.6 of those seconds with their eyes off the road. This makes texting the most distracting of all cell phone related tasks.2

  • Of all cell phone related tasks–including talking, dialing, or reaching for the phone- texting while driving is the most dangerous.

  • Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near crash events directly related to talking on a cell phone or texting.

  • A car driver dialing a cell phone is 2.8 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-distracted driver.

Keep Checking

In addition to discussing cell phone use with your child, review phone use records to confirm the phone is being used appropriately and responsibly. If your child violates known expectations and guidelines, apply the outlined consequence.

When updates or apps are added to a phone, ask your child to show you how to use it. This way, you will know exactly how your child is using the phone, and when adjustments are needed.

1. Lenhart, Amanda. (2009, August 19). "Teens and Mobile Phones Over the Past Five Years: Pew Internet Looks Back." Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/14–Teens-and-Mobile-Phones-Data-Memo.aspx
2. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. New Data from VTTI Provides Insight into Cell Phone Use and Driving Distraction. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/02/17/1513271113

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