Two of my girls have mobile phones and with that comes another whole set of problems and exposes them to a multitude of varying risk factors.
Mobile phones can be a great way to keep in touch with your children and teens, however they are also a very direct way for others to contact them too, both friend and enemy through SMS, calling and on todays Smartphones the many social media apps.
"Cyber bullying" is increasing in it's intensity and now that just about every teen has access to a mobile phone this has made for a very direct way and personal way for a bully to target their prey. The "Cyber bully" uses the mobile to send cruel SMS messages, spread rumours or share inappropriate, embarrassing and often altered photos of their target.
So what is the best way for a parent to help their child?
- Make sure you are completely knowledgeable about the mobile device your child is using, how it works and what it is capable of.
- Talk to your child every day to make sure that everything in their life is running smoothly. Communication is the key, make sure they feel comfortable talking to you about whatever it is that is bothering them and what ever you do, don't give up if they don't want to talk.
- Look out for behaviour changes in your child that may indicate they are being bullied, anger, depression, or even if they suddenly stop using their mobile phone, could all be signs that they are being bullied through the device.
- Do not take away their mobile phone. This would be punishing them for the bully's behaviour, they may also refuse to confide in you the next time it happens.
What to do about the Bully?
- Report the bullying behaviour to the right authorities.
- Make sure you save all the text messages etc for future proof.
- Talk to the Principal at your school
- Talk to the Police. Harassment by mobile phone is actually a criminal offence.
- Change the mobile number
The issue of "Sexting" has raised it's head amongst my daughters and their friends. Requests have been made for topless images to be sent through via text message. Of course the boys that requested the images were told to take a running jump off a very long pier!!
But not all girls will say no!
Did you know that if an 18 year old boy asked his 16 year old girlfriend to send him a topless photo through text, he could actually be charged with possessing child pornography and placed on a sex offenders register for 8 years! This is something that indeed could have repercussions for a young mans future.
"Sexting" could also have some very unprepared for consequences for girls too. What happens if a 15 year old girl sends her boyfriend a topless photo and then the next week they break up. The ex-boyfriend could decide to share this photo via social media for all the world to see. Remember "once on the internet, always on the internet"...
Photos like these could continue to cause the 15 year old girl problems in the future, parents and other relatives will see it along with her friends which would cause major embarrassment. Prospective employers could also see it, damaging her reputation and future prospects. There is a lot of repercussions to consider and for teens that tend to live in the moment (YOLO), this is something we as parents need to remind them of.
Monitor the photos and "selfies" your teens are taking of themselves and posting to social media sites like "Instagram" "Kick", "Snap Chat" and "Facebook", just to name a few. Inappropriate photos posted on these sites have just as damaging consequences as texts.
Most teens have access to these social media apps on their phones, so be aware just how your child is using their mobile phone and monitor it just as you would their access to social media on a computer.
Ultimately remember that YOU as the parent bought them the phone and continue to pay for it's use. If they are using the phone incorrectly and abusing the privilege you also have the right to take it away!
If your child is being harassed, or bullied through the mobile or having inappropriate requests made of them, it is your right and responsibility as a parent to put a stop to it!
Do you have any tips that you would like to share on mobile phone use? Feel free to leave a comment
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