Mobile Devices

Understand Ages & Stages

Cell Phones, Texting, and Mobile Technology

  • Recognize that the younger generation always redefines technological wants and needs. For example, many parents say that cell phones are a “want,” while many teenagers feel that they’re a necessity. This period in history is only different from previous generations because of the higher number of new technological choices available. Be aware of these tensions, and work with them instead of against them.
  • Attempt to balance the technological wishes of all family members at the same time. For example, can you afford to purchase one computer or iPad? If so, create a schedule for when family members can use it, so everyone isn’t always fighting over it. If a computer or iPad is beyond your family budget, look for places in your community that offer free or low-cost computer time, such as your local library or community center.
  • Encourage family members to keep in touch with extended family members via cell phones, e-mail, and text messaging. Grandparents enjoy e-mailing with their grandkids.
  • Be realistic about what you can afford and what you want your child to contribute. Children learn a lot by saving their money and waiting to buy something when they have enough money.
  • Place limits on the amount of time your children can spend in front of a screen every day. Most experts recommend no more than two hours a day for screen time, and that includes the TV, computer, video game system, and smart phones.
  • Many children and teens enjoy playing computer games, hand-held video games, and video games on game consoles (such as the Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox). Make sure the games they play are age appropriate, and that you limit their time to no more than two hours a day.
  • Before your child starts to play a game, talk about how you will negotiate ending it. (Children are notorious for saying, “I can’t stop! I’ll lose this game if I stop now” and then continuing to play for 15 to 30 minutes after you asked them to stop.) If this happens often, shorten their playing time and ask them to turn it off 30 minutes before you want them to.
  • Play with your kids from time to time. Many video games are multi-player games and since most parents aren’t as video-game savvy as their kids, the kids often enjoy racing past their parents as the parents try to figure out the controls.
  • Make sure your children spend more time doing things that are not technologically related , such as reading, playing with other children, doing homework, doing family activities, making crafts, and getting exercise. If they refuse, do not buy them more electronic gadgets.
  • If you allow your child to use the Internet, make sure you have parent controls, since many kids at this age are tempted to view Web sites that are pornographic or violent. Be clear that it is not acceptable to do so.
  • Have your kids teach their grandparents (or you) a few text messaging shortcuts so that you can keep in touch periodically. Or ask them for advice on a computer problem that has stumped you. (You’ll be surprised at how much they know.)
  • You may feel pressured to allow your kids to play games that are rated higher than their age group and to watch movies with a higher age rating. Be clear where you stand on this, and monitor your kids’ electronic use, since it’s easy for them to borrow games and videos from friends.
  • As kids get older, their technology wish list only grows. Be clear about what’s affordable and acceptable for them to have (and how often to use them).
  • Some teens are hard on themselves when they save for an electronic gadget for a long time (often many months) and then feel “stupid” for buying it when an upgrade that’s bigger and better comes along six months later. Explain how quickly technology is changing and how adults can’t keep up with it either. Emphasize how they made the best choice at the time, which is what’s most important.
  • Set rules about driving a car and technology use. For example, do not allow your child to drive while talking on a cell phone, text messaging, or wearing ear buds to listen to an mp3 player.
  • Continue to challenge your teens’ “needs” and “wants” in the area of electronics, particularly if they’re planning to go to college after high school. You don’t want them to create a lifestyle that will be difficult and too expensive to maintain while also going to college.