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Rules for Kids' First Cell Phone

Are you considering getting your child their first cell phone?

If they are in the double digits, starting to spend a little time on their own or getting home by bus or walking, a cell phone can be a parent's friend. Some of us have chosen an age when a cell phone will happen; whether it's grade 3, 7 or 10, no judgment here. Every family is different and has different reasons for getting their child a mobile phone. Our oldest two set the precedence in our family when they were 12 and started bussing and being away from us for short stints. If you've decided your child will not have a cell phone until they are an adult or old enough to pay for it monthly, these rules may not be relevant for you and I applaud your resolve. I chose differently and I've had to learn along the way what that choice meant.

What I've learned and want to share is how to avoid or address some of the pitfalls we've faced as parents of five kids with five different cellphone experiences. These are mostly for elementary and junior high and are fluid, always changing. Our access and privacy rules definitely changed when they entered high school.

First, consider why your child NEEDS a cell phone. If it is for safety and your piece of mind knowing where they are, do they need a smart phone with access to the World Wide Web when they are out of the house with no supervision? If they are in elementary, probably not, but again it's your call. Just realize that your sweet, innocent 9 year old is curious and has friends who may be more curious. If you just put one curious word like... Say, "boobs" in a search engine, guess what will show up on their screen? A whole lot of boobs! This may or may not be a big deal to your family but imagine all the other curious words they can choose to access, with photos and videos! I had a friend find the word "fagina" in her computer Internet history when her sons were 8 and 10, which was her time to figure out how to safeguard them on the computer. Thank goodness for poor spelling :)

You can still get cell phones with voice and text only options or you can get a smart phone with no data plan for it: however, know they will still have access in wifi areas like friends' houses or at school. Be prepared to find questionable history if they have access to everything and anything. Kids are curious and you have just given them the answer to all their questions at their fingertips in Google!


Here are the RULES I wish we had started with before giving any of our kids a phone:

1. Access
The point of getting a cell phone for kids is usually because we want to be able to reach them (and they can reach us) when we or they are away from home. If we call or text, they should answer or respond as soon as possible.
Moms/dads have all the passwords and WE OWN the phone. The child is allowed to use the phone but it is not their possession to keep from you. If they are younger, maybe they only get access when they will be separated from their parents.
We will check the activity on the phone and the kids need to know up front that nothing is private, even if they delete it we can access the account history. This is not a spying tool for parents but an opportunity for our kids to learn about doing the right thing and for parents to help guide their child's journey in the online world.

2. Safety
If you do go the smartphone route, whether they are little or in high school:
- install a "find my phone" app. This allows you to find a lost phone... Or a lost or non-responsive child. Their location services must remain on at all times for this function to work.
- No communication with people they do not know. This holds true if they have a phone or when they begin playing online games on the family computer or tablet. These are scary discussions to have with our kids but if they are online, you need to have them. Age appropriate examples of online predators and the risks may save their lives.
- No downloading of apps without permission. Moms and dads need to know what's out there to be able to say yes or no. This is a daunting task if you aren't tech savvy and I guarantee your kids are more in-the-know then you are. If they ask to download an app you aren't familiar with, look into it. There are loads of parenting reviews available online. Say no if you're not comfortable and set an age when you may be more comfortable and they can have it.
- Set up parental controls on each device so they need a password to access downloads or certain apps. Each phone is different so check your specific phone details to do this. Don't wait, do it now.

3. Phones do NOT go to bed. The temptation of texting friends all night, the ambient light of a phone ruining sleep patterns and just a total disregard for the importance of sleep all get tested if phones go to bed with kids. They may try the "but it's my alarm clock" or "I just use it to fall asleep to music". Do not fall for this! Get them a clock radio or CD player with an alarm.

4. No phones at meals (I've broken this one on occasion and heard about it). Meal times should be spent together as much as possible and without the distraction of texts, games, videos, etc. It is a hard habit to break if you don't make the rule from the get-go. The people in front of you are much more important than the device in your hands; show them that.

5. Take care of it!
Consider what feels right for you, making them earn money for their first phone or gifting it to them. Kids are growing and learning to be responsible and they will make mistakes - that includes with their phones. Whether you bought the first one or they did, you have to decide if you will have mercy if they have one accident or lose it. I guarantee they will appreciate it more and take better care of it if they paid for it but that will work too if the repair or replacement phone was earned. Just whatever you do... Do not repair or replace a second time. It will never end! Trust me .

6. Photos, Videos and Sexting (I know, but read it!)
For the little ones, no taking pictures or videos of people without permission. Elementary kids have gotten themselves into hot water just being silly and thinking it's fun to share or show pictures of classmates in embarrassing situations, but it isn't fun for everyone. See, that was easy!

Now the hard part... Sending pornographic pics or videos of themselves or others through their phones (tablets and computers too) happening at far too young ages. I know this sounds horrific if you have kids who are very young and the concept of even bringing this up seems ridiculous; However, it's happening everyday in almost every junior high in the city. Ask your school administrators and you will find they are dealing with online bullying and sexting issues all the time. Cell phones make these situations very easy to get involved with and sadly it has become the norm. It freaks me out too, but if we don't have these conversations, monitor online activities and stay in the know, it may be our kids making this mistake, and it's a big one.
Can you imagine yourself when you had your first big crush? Can you remember peer pressure? Talking about societal issues and sexualization in the media is a whole other post, but media is influencing a generation and we can't turn a blind eye hoping it's not our child participating in these activities. I hope it isn't either, but they likely know, have seen or heard about a boy or girl who sent nude photos. Have the conversation.
Taking nude pics of underage kids is child pornography. Sending it through the Internet or a cell phone is distribution of child pornography. Even if it's the child taking and sending pictures of them self, it is still illegal. There are too many examples of kids being expelled from schools and some have been charged with these offenses. Even worse though is how it impacts the child when their private photos are shared with the entire class, school or on social media. They just didn't know how bad it could be sending one simple picture, but it can be horrible.

We need to educate our kids and prepare them for how their actions with their cell phones can change their lives in a moment. We also need to educate ourselves on the realities and dangers having access to anything can create.

Communication about the tough topics, set clear boundaries and rules, research apps, and "you own the phone" messaging all can help you in navigating the rough waters. Kids will make mistakes so be prepared for bumps in the road but by knowing and discussing in advance I hope these tips will help make your child's first cell phone experience a good one. Good luck!

Interview with The Wiggles...by Our Readers!

August 26th, 2013

We asked our readers to send their questions to The Wiggles. And boy did they ever!

What’s your favourite song to dance to?

Emma: My favourite song to dance to at the moment is "Do The Propeller" because at the live show its our finale and its so much fun seeing the whole audience standing up and dancing with us! But new songs come in and out of my head really quickly when we record new albums so I'll keep you updated!

Simon: My favorite song to dance to is Monkey Dance.

Lachy: My favourite song to dance too would have to be Captain's Magic Buttons!! We dance it on stage and its an up tempo song and has fun moves. It's also funny watching Captain choose which button and which sounds he make. They are always different and he is very funny. 

 

How much of the year are you on tour?

Emma: I think we are on tour about 9 months of the year so on the road we become our own family! This year we have toured all around the Australian outback for 5 months, did a quick promo tour in North America and now we are here touring 35 cities across the US/Canada.

Simon: We are on tour about 9 months of the year. Usually throughout Australia, North America, New Zealand, Asia, Middle East and the UK. 

Lachy: We tour extensively for up to 8 months of the year. This year we have already travelled to America twice! To add to that, we travel to Dubai, and New Zealand in the coming months before being back in Australia for Christmas. 

Do you have plans to make a movie?

Emma: We would absolutely love to make a movie! Recently we filmed our first TV series "Ready, Steady, Wiggle!" and we had so much fun in the studio making that, and it would be so fun to make a movie about some sort of wiggly adventure. I would definitely love an Emma room in the wiggle house where I can keep all my bows!

Simon: I'm not aware of any plans to make a movie but I would love to. We usually film 3 DVDs per year. 

Lachy: It has definitely come up in discussions, and we would all absolutely love to make another Wiggly movie. The first and only Wiggly movie made by the original Wiggles was very successful so it would be fantastic to make one with the new Wiggle line up. 

Do you like to dance every day?

Emma: Yes, it is my dream to dance everyday!!! I have always been a dancer and I love all styles of dance including jazz, tap, ballet, Irish, hip hop and contemporary and being able to dance on stage everyday is just the best! Even if we have a day off I usually dance in my room.

Simon: I love to dance everyday and I also love to sing everyday as well. 

Lachy: Absolutely. If we are not dancing, we are going for a run or doing Yoga. Its very important in our job but just in general life to keep fit and healthy so this is very important. to make sure we are always moving and using our bodies. 

What's your favourite city to perform in?

Emma: I think in the whole world its really nice to perform in Sydney because most of my family is from Sydney and because we tour so much we don't get to see them all the time so its nice to perform for them. Usually we get to perform in Sydney around Christmas so I always have fond memories performing at home, like last year we performed in Sydney for the big Christmas Carols there with the original wiggles and even though we were being introduced as the new cast of the wiggles it was a lovely farewell to Murray, Greg & Jeff.

Simon: I love to perform in New York. It's always been a dream of mine to perform on Broadway. 

Lachy: My favourite city to perform in would have to be the very remote parts of Australia that we have been to this year. There is something very special about driving into a small town in the middle of the outback and performing for sometimes only a few hundred people. The children always are so happy during the show as they very rarely see any live entertainment, and the parents always thank us at the end, saying, thank you so much for coming all this way to see us. :)

Anything exciting you'd like to tell us about?

Emma: Well our TV series "Ready, Steady, Wiggle!" has just come out on Sprout in the US and Treehouse in Canada so that's the most exciting thing lately. But also in the lead up to Halloween we have a new CD & DVD coming out titles "Wiggly Halloween" which is so cool and different because we have never done a Halloween DVD and all the costumes we get to dress up in in this video are so interesting! We hope you like it!!

Simon: We are currently on our North American tour. Touring 35 cities with The Wiggles and all of our friends, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword. Our DVD Taking Off has been released and our new TV series Ready Steady Wiggle is now on Treehouse and Sprout. 

Lachy: Well lots of very exciting things. We have our very first Halloween release on CD and DVD and also our brand new TV series. Now this is so exciting because the Wiggles have not had a series on television for about 6 years. We also are in the process of completely changing and revamping our website which will include lots of new material including fun new games and videos to watch. so that is very exciting too. 

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

Emma: I would like to say a big hello to everyone in North America and if you are coming to see the show we cant wait to see you there! We also have Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword all singing and dancing in the show! Get ready for some of your favorite songs like Hot Potato and Rock-a-bye your bear as well as new songs like Do The Propeller and Emma is the girl with the bow in her hair! Its going to be a lot of fun!

Simon: Keep singing, keep dancing and keep on Wiggling. 

Lachy: I would just like to thank everyone who has come to the show or has bought tickets to see us this year in North America. We really look forward to seeing you at the show. If you haven't yet bought tickets, come and see us, because this is a very exciting time in The Wiggles history. A brand new show with a new cast and lots of fun to be had. Look forward to seeing you at the show!

 

THE WIGGLES! “TAKING OFF!” WORLD TOUR VISITS

NORTHERN ALBERTA JUBILEE AUDITORIUM IN EDMONTON

ON AUGUST 31ST, 2013 AT 11:30AM & 3:00PM

Tickets available here.

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