Debbie Gross, LCSW, Ltd. - Individual, Marital & Family Therapy

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One Therapist's Reflections

Parenting Tips for Children's Internet and Cell Phone Safety

June 1, 2009

One of the most talked about issues both in and out of my counseling 
practice has to do with technology and our children. Parents, wanting 
to make sure that their children are "up to speed" with the latest and 
greatest technology, are providing access to cell phones and the internet 
at alarmingly young ages. Children as young as six feel it is their "right" 
to these privileges! Parents ask all the time how to supervise the internet, 
how to enforce basic rules around cell phone use, and whether or not 
they are doing their child a DISSERVICE when they DO NOT succumb 
to adult and child peer pressure and either restrict or monitor their 
children and technology. I have seen children as young as 7 with 
facebook accounts - and many of their parents have no idea that they 
have set them up!

With that in mind, I have developed Parent Tips for Internet and Cell 
Phone Safety for Children. It's important to note that every family 
needs to establish their own guidelines and rules, and each child's 
behavioral, emotional, and social maturity needs to be considered 
when setting up the rules.


Having access to the Internet and using a cell phone is a privilege. 
Parents need to provide proper guidance and supervision to promote 
safety. What is sent to one person or uploaded on the Internet enters 
a PUBLIC arena. Children need to understand the lack of privacy 
that is potentially at risk when children misuse the technology.

How public is it? The following are examples of how easily information 
is passed to an entire network: a picture sent through cell phones to 
everyone on their contact list, an email sent out to a buddy list, an IM conversation copied and pasted into email and sent out to an address 
book list.

It is a parent’s obligation to help children understand the safe use and 
risks of this technology through discussion, supervision, setting 
appropriate limits, awarding privileges for appropriate technology 
use, and providing consequences for inappropriate technology use. 
Don’t look for ways to punish your child; use supervision and 
monitoring as means for communication about what’s appropriate 
and what’s not, and reinforce appropriate use and parental access with privileges.

Trust and supervision go hand in hand. A child will make you feel 
guilty about supervision – telling you if you are monitoring their 
behaviors, you must not trust them. Teach them that trust is earned 
when repeated checks result in observation of appropriate behavior, 
and trust is maintained when less frequent checks continue to result in observation of appropriate behavior. Likewise, observing inappropriate behavior results in decreased trust, increased supervision, and will 
result in limits to privileges.

It is crucial to establish rules around cell phone use. For example, 
set times for phone to be turned off for the night, make sure the 
phone is turned off at bedtime, and, if necessary, your child might 
need to give the phone over to you before sleep. In addition, limit 
cell phone use during homework, mealtimes, and family time. Phones 
can be placed on the counter, for example, before meals. Children should 
not even CHECK the nature of a text message during family time. 
Teach them that it can wait until later. If an adult needs to be accessible 
by phone for urgent work issues, he can check his texts or calls during 
family time, but work to model the message that family time is the priority!

It is important also to set limits around texting. Texting under age of 16 
needs to be limited and monitored. A guide to this can be that once 
1-2 texts have been sent, your child needs to stop texting that person 
until they receive a response. Many children inappropriately send text 
messages or sexual pictures (sexting) because the impact of what they 
are doing doesn't feel real. Look in the local papers and you will read 
about situations where a child under the age of 17 sent a sexual text to 
a person over 17 and the older person was arrested and charged with 
child pornography.  

Because of technology, parents need to continue to speak with parents 
regarding plans and to insure parties are supervised. Children are relying 
LESS on parents to make plans, and detour around parental authority for arrangements. Children are making plans via cell phone, and they believe parents don’t need to contact each other. Children actually feel it will 
embarrass them!

In addition, parents are no longer picking children up by going to door 
(they are calling child’s cell phone). Parent to parent contact is 
CRUCIAL in helping you feel you are not alone in parenting!

Internet use must be monitored as well. Under age 14, children’s 
passwords should be known to parents. Over age 14, parents need 
assess if they need to know passwords, which depends on the maturity 
and behavior of the child. This might change as your teen moves 
through high school, and the privilege of a private password CAN 
be revoked if the child's behavior warrants. Parents have the right to 
access their children’s email and internet sites to monitor activity. 
If child denies access, the child loses internet privileges. If inappropriate 
use is noted, the child loses internet privileges. Making good choices 
results in continued, appropriate use!

It is most important that children know you CAN check these sites – 
children who know their parents CAN monitor their use are more 
likely to make responsible choices. Check periodically, and increase 
monitoring if at risk behavior is noted.

Specifically, facebook, snapchat, twitter, and instagram was initially 
intended for High School age children and older. It is not appropriate 
for a child under age 14 (junior high or younger) to access these sites, 
although many children are accessing them. If you feel the need to 
indulge your child with this at such a young age, it is imperative that 
you supervise the use often! In addition, parents shouldn’t need to 
“friend” their child – you have access to monitor, and they need to 
self-monitor. However, if you choose to have children as friends, set 
a good example and do not expose those children to adult content. 
When you determine your child can have accounts on these sites, browse through child’s site WITH your child periodically. This is not the time 
for you to grab the details of their lives. Instead, use it to open 
discussion about what's appropriate and how what is being put out 
into the virtual world can have a long-lasting impact on their lives.

Remember, these are guidelines, not firm rules. In your individual 
homes, examine how you negotiate the privileges that come with 
technology and how you supervise those privileges. Make sure you 
consider the individual child when setting your own guidelines. 
Please share your thoughts, concerns, and successes here as well!


10 Comments to Parenting Tips for Children's Internet and Cell Phone Safety:

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Oliver on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 5:36 AM
This is a really great blog.
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edubirdie com review on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 12:41 AM
Technology nowadays is growing very fast. Phones and internet are one of these, they always think about how to develop new products. Especially phones, every month, phone manufacturers release new models with greater specs. It's sad to know that children at a very young age nowadays know how to use the phone, they don't have the time to play outside and make friends, they often get mad when they are disturbed, they become disrespectful. Phones and internet have so much bad effect on a child, it can also cause speech delay, obesity and laziness. I am very thankful for posting this very informative blog, it will give the parents the awareness to their children by using phone.

essayontime reliable on Friday, June 29, 2018 2:19 AM
Thank you for sharing these tips and information regarding the internet and cell phone safety for children. Most kids these days are into using the internet and cell phones, because through it, they get to entertain themselves and communicate with their friends. Communication of parents with their children should be present to be able to guide them well. With proper supervision from the parents, the kids would be able to use their cell phones responsibly. The world on the internet is not safe, it is full of strangers, and the possibility of negatively influencing the children is high. To avoid it as early as they can should be done.
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Ed on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 11:32 PM
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craft resumes reviews on Monday, October 29, 2018 5:58 AM
This is a very helpful article, especially for those parents who are having a hard time to discipline their children regarding their use of cell phones. This technology has been a helping tool for parents nowadays. A lot of them use tablets or smart phones to pacify their kids with tantrum times. And I am really against it, because they do not just let their child get used to it, but they also endanger their health. We should be mindful with these methods that we use in parenting, especially when there is a technology involved.
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lika on Monday, November 19, 2018 2:35 AM
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