My daughter is 13. We gave her a cell phone this year, partly because she walks to and from home to school, and partly because all of her friends already had one.
We insisted on all the parental restrictions along with those of her school – e.g. no phones in the classroom – and I told her from the start that I’d be checking her texts, etc.
She’s a good kid, does well in school, and is involved in girls’ hockey.
But every time there’s a problem with the phone, it involves one particular girl her age who appears to be phone-obsessed.
She texts constantly, repeatedly, until she gets an answer. She mostly keeps badmouthing another girl they know, insisting that my daughter agrees.
She winds up my daughter until, after five expletives about how terrible this other girl is, my daughter has occasionally agreed and repeated the slur.
I’m shocked and worried about how these exchanges are affecting my child.
Do I take away her phone for good (I’ve removed it for brief periods whenever she broke my no-phone-at-dinner or during homework-time rules)?
You’re not alone. Teaching - and modeling - responsible use of devices including smartphones, is essential among today’s parental duties.
Especially so, since cyber-bullying (whether using phones or the Internet) is shockingly common and can severely harm its victims.
Explain to your daughter that online bad-mouthing is the first step to cyber-bullying. If the original sender forwards the chain of texts between the two of them, your child stands guilty alongside her.
If the expletives and bullying are seen by a teacher (in case your daughter’s phone is confiscated due to texting in school), it could lead to suspension or worse.
As one expert said, giving a child a phone is handing over the ability to enter the adult world, with its punishments and dangers as well as its technologies.
That’s why some experts advise starting with age-appropriate limits, such as being able to text only parents or certain approved friends, using pre-approved apps, and having limited or no access to the Internet.
Your daughter needs to be told to block that girl from her phone. Also, given that she’s already participated in what could become more public victim-shaming, you should alert the parents of the originator to their daughter’s bullying, in order to end it.
If that sounds extreme, consider this: In London, England, a rehab clinic specialist, Mandy Saligari, has said that screen time was too often overlooked as a potential vehicle for addiction in young people.
As well, she said in an interview with Britain’s online newspaper, The Independent, “So many of my clients are 13- and 14-year-old-girls who are involved in sexting, and describe it as “completely normal.”
Some important parental rules suggested by child/teen specialists when giving a child their own phone:
1) Say clearly beforehand that you’ll be monitoring texts, apps, social media, web searches, and sites visited.
2) Tell your kids not to write, post, or share anything that they wouldn’t mind you seeing.
3) Take away cellphones and Internet access for a specific time for violating rules, or when you’re concerned about people, groups, or material being accessed.
4) Say that you won’t take away their phones or accounts for telling you about cyber-bullying or inappropriate content sent by other people.
A top reason for kids not sharing harmful happenings with parents is worry about having their phones/Internet taken away.
We’re several couples, early-40s, who’ve suddenly lost a good friend. He died months after what had seemed a successful cancer surgery.
He was back at work, active and travelling.
Though he and his wife had separated last year, he remained a very involved father with their three children.
However, his ex-wife isn’t returning calls or emails. There’s no word when or where the service will be. We naturally want to honour his life by attending.
Several among us work in his same field and could be helpful to her.
How best can we approach her without intruding?
She may be in shock; absorbed with helping her family deal with their grief.
Drop a note at her door if possible, saying that you all want to help in whatever way she needs.
Text that message as well. If she stays silent, back off. His employer may know if there’s to be a service.
Tip of the day:
If you give a child a cell phone, you must teach and oversee its responsible use, and take action against any mis-use.