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Healthy Cellphone Boundaries

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Consider all the facts before you allow your kids to have a cellphone.

When I was growing up, my generation negotiated with our parents about the keys to the car, curfew, a telephone in our bedrooms and dating rules. Today’s parents have to add technology. Although they may appear to be standard fare, cellphones are not an inalienable teen right. They are a communication tool that can make family contact easier but not without risks. Weigh the pros and cons of a cellphone before purchasing one for your child. Then establish clear boundaries up front.

Cell phones allow opportunities for teens to have private conversations with anyone at any time, without accountability or adult oversight. Because of this, conversations and text messaging can easily become inappropriate. In addition to conversation concerns, most cellphones are equipped with features, such as a camera, where teens can store digital pictures. Inappropriate pictures of classmates, captured in a school locker room and sent to other friends, is not an innocent prank. They may be considered pornographic. Most teens do not realize that sending and receiving pornographic pictures is a crime. Depending on the age of the subject and the offender, charges related to cellphone photos can range from misdemeanors to felonies.

In the Naples Daily News, investigator Scott Rapisarda warns parents to consider how a teen’s phone is registered. If it’s in the parent’s name and it contains sexually explicit photos, the parent has to answer to the law as an adult, possibly with child pornography on his phone. Rapisarda suggests that parents check cellphone use and stored data to protect their teens and themselves.

Having a cellphone is a privilege that must be earned through maturity and responsibility, especially for young teens. Consider alternatives to buying a phone for individual use. For example, your daughter could borrow your cellphone for emergencies or to contact you when she is away from home. Like a family car, you could also have a family cellphone that is available to all family members. This eliminates extra costs and provides accountability.
If you allow your teen to have a cellphone, consider the following boundaries:

Limitations of equipment and plans

If you have concerns about your teen’s ability to make wise choices with camera, video and Internet options, find a phone without those features. And even if the phone is equipped to contact someone halfway around the world, you can choose a plan that excludes international calls.

The power of the dollar

Perhaps the easiest way to set boundaries with cellphones is through money. A cellphone can cost between $50 and $400, and most plans that include a decent number of minutes and text messages can range from $40 to $100 per month. You may opt for a family cellphone plan in which you have one bill but your teen pays for his portion. Or if you allow your teen to have an individual plan, remember that consequences teach lessons. I’ve heard stories about teens who went over their cellphone limits and discovered on their first bill that they owed the phone company several hundred dollars. By requiring a teen to pay for a cellphone and his use of it, you encourage maturity and create accountability.

Manners of technology

As I write this article, I’m sitting in a restaurant where I see at least three adults wearing wireless headsets while having lunch with another person. Adults and teens alike need to relearn their manners and use them when technology is concerned. Set and enforce family cellphone rules that reflect consideration, moderation and manners. A few reasonable rules may include: No technology at the dinner table; no texting or answering a phone while in the middle of a conversation; and no cellphones when visitors are at the house.

Accountability

One of the dangers of cellphones is the lack of accountability. Consider having a rule that all cellphones need to be turned off and turned in to Mom at the end of the day and that no cellphone may be used while driving. Also, establish the understanding that cellphone bills are not private property. As a parent, you have the right (and responsibility) to know with whom your teen is interacting. Emphasize accountability — not control.

Perhaps you have a knot in your stomach because your teen has had a cellphone without restrictions. Don’t panic! Evaluate your teen’s age, maturity level and the amount of responsibility he has displayed with the cellphone. Based on these variables, you may choose not to change anything. But if you believe boundaries are necessary, don’t be afraid to enforce them.

You are not simply setting boundaries for cellphones; you are teaching lifelong principles of consideration for others and of consequences, self-control, financial stewardship and accountability. Now that sounds like a good use of minutes‚Ää!

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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