While phones and online communication is an inherent aspect to our modern world, online interactions can pose a number of risks to young people including negatively impacting self-esteem, mood and increasing the risk of bullying. Some recommendations are that young people refrain from exposure to social media until around 14 years of age. As the brain is still around a decade away from maturity it is important that parents assist young people through their teen years in navigating this powerful mode of information and communication.
It is good to be pre-emptive where possible and discuss and decide the parameters around phone and social media use before introducing these into your child’s life. If a phone is already introduced, it is reasonable to bring in boundaries in response to concerns or advice. These ideas include what age to introduce a smart phone and social media, how much time you feel is acceptable on the phone and social media, the manner in which they interact online and parental supervision of online use. As an example and starting point, a set of items from the phone contracts a Mumbulla parent devised for a young teen and an older child are available to be viewed on the Sapphira Blog on the Mumbulla website. Specific items generally work best as they are clear from the onset. It is recommended to discuss ideas with your child and have a signed agreement in writing as elements of verbal agreements can be forgotten over time. This is recommended even if your child is gifted or purchases their own phone and can be framed in the same manner as supporting them as they build their capacity to manage such a powerful tool which holds capacity to hurt themselves and others.
It is recommended that in the early stages of phone and social media use you have access to view your child’s online interactions. This can facilitate discussions regarding safe communication and lead to discussions such as communicating with the same thought online as one would face to face. While there is capacity to set up alternate profiles, there is still an ability to regularly discuss a safe and respectful online presence. With regards to privacy, young people retain their capacity for private conversations when face to face or speaking on the phone and this scenario enables a safer and often more considered communication. Seeing your child’s online interactions can protect from interactions from strangers and facilitates and explanation to young people that online communication is not private and there is always the potential for misinterpretation, unwanted forwarding and problematic digital footprints.
Examples of inclusions for phone contracts
(Thank you to the Mumbulla parent who shared this)
I recognize that too much screen time is unhealthy. I will have weekly physical and creative activities such as reading, physical sport outside, mending or making things.
My tablet/phone will not be used while interacting or eating
I will not use my tablet/phone an hour before going to bed…
All chores must be done before 20 minutes of the games/social media
I will not use my phone at the dinner table or other family times.
I will not use my phone before 8 am or after 7:30pm.
My tabley/phone will stay at the technology table at night.
During the evening, I can use the phone for 20 mins on each hour. E.g 5pm – 5.20 then 6 – 6.20 or 1 hour total
Jobs in the house are a priority over phone and social media unless listening to music.
I will have a password on my tablet/phone
I will never reveal my identity online
I will only let people who I know follow me but if there is someone that I don’t know that wants to follow me I will check with parents
If I am interested in new social media apps I will ask parents first and we will research them together.
I will never take photos to harm or embarrass anybody
I will never share another person’s photo without their permission
I will not post or send photos or messages that I would not want sent about me.
If I am concerned about anything that I see online I will speak with a parent (including negative messages toward me, someone I know, contact from an unknown person, content which makes me uncomfortable)
Security and Social Considerations
Parents will know my passwords and could, from time to time check my use of social media.
If a misdemeanour occurs the phone will be taken off me for two weeks.
Parents chip in for the sim card until old enough to pay for own. This will likely be a $15 a month contract. Any extra data I will need to pay for.
I am responsible for the phone and replacing it if lost or broken.
I understand that my phone may be taken away if there are concerns about my behaviour, schooling or social interactions
I understand that my phone may be taken away if I repeatedly breach the agreement made between myself and my parents and if this is likely I will receive (two) warning prior
Some further reading