By Corrie Sebire
I was pretty proud (perhaps a little smug) that we made it almost to the end of Year 7 without giving our daughter a mobile phone. She is our eldest and the trailblazer for the rest of the kids in our family when it comes to mobile phones, social media and everything else in life. A new school, new friends and catching public transport to school meant a mobile phone was given to her. A friend told us it would be social suicide if we sent her to her new girls school without one.
See related article: Surviving the slumber to school saga
I have to confess that it’s been a steep learning curve with a few trip-ups along the way but some unexpected benefits too. We had to set some rules but admittedly we were learning and making them up as we went along. Here’s my advice:
– Take the phone away when a rule is broken and don’t be afraid to take it away for a few days, a week or indefinitely. There were a couple of girls in Year 7 who had their phones taken off them and newsflash…they survived. Life does still go on and there are people to talk to in real life!
– Ask for the password to the phone on a regular basis (because they will change it. We learnt that one a few times).
– Check what is being shared on social media and check the accounts being followed, use this as a teaching opportunity on how to use social media safely. Don’t assume that your children know how to use social media. If they are following their friends and what they share it might be very different to what you had in mind.
– Collect the phone at the end of the day so that it doesn’t stay in the bedroom overnight. They might want to charge it in their room or use it for an alarm but we’ve found they are just excuses to keep it.
– Put time limits on phone usage especially on weekends and holidays. We realised we were missing our daughter and her company as she was busy texting friends on her phone or watching Instagram videos. So the phone sometimes comes with me so she can take a break and spend time with us or do her homework … and make sure they just don’t find another device to use.
– One social media account per platform, not several (somehow our daughter was running three Instagram accounts so we couldn’t check on two of them!). Make sure the accounts are private and friends need to request to follow so that your child can see who is following them.
– And lastly keep an eye on those old phones and devices that you might have lying around the house. At one of our schools a black market had started up with kids finding old phones at home and then selling them to kids who weren’t allowed phones.
And so despite all of those strict rules from me a phone has really helped our daughter build and maintain friendships and stay in touch with her friends. She can join her friends after school at a cafe or meet them before school at the bus stop or morning sport.
She can also join in the conversation about funny things on Instagram or who has tickets to the upcoming Billie Eilish concert. An unexpected benefit is that she’s much better than me at taking photos and managed to take 10 years off my face in a recent photo. And when things are getting hairy in the back of the van with little ones getting restless while I’m driving she whips out her phone and uses Snapchat filters on photos of the kids to distract them.
At the end of the day setting a good example with our own mobile phones and teaching our kids how to use their phones responsibly will always be the safest way to let them come into our houses and our children’s possession.
I am still very glad we waited until Year 7 and set rules in place and despite the younger kids requests no one else in our family will be getting a phone until high school.
Corrie is a wife and a mum of seven children under 13. She has one set of twins and one sweet girl with special needs. She tries to find time to bake, craft, read, volunteer, drink her coffee hot and not look tired. Corrie blogs at retromummy.com