At what age should you be getting your child a cell phone? According to a 2010 study conducted by Nielsen Pocket Guide, the average age for kids to have a cell phone is between 9 and 10.
Cell phones are also the number one form of communication for teens, who text more than they talk – averaging 2,272 text messages a month compared with 203 calls.
Here's another interesting statistic: According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 39% of all teens have participated in "sexting." That is they've sent or have received sexually suggestive texts.
Speak with your child about their cell phone habits and your safety concerns. Set parameters around when they're allowed to use their phone (e.g., not during school hours and not after 9pm). Talk about what kinds of websites they're allowed to access and what kinds of postings you're ok for them to make on their social media sites. Explain the dangers of texting or talking to someone they don't actually know, and that, just like in chatrooms, there are predators who use cell phones to target kids.
Talk with your kids about the consequences for sexting and cyberbullying. Sending mean or hurtful texts is one of the most common forms of cyber bullying. Take the time to sit down with your children and explain why cyberbullying is wrong. Let them also know that it's important to tell a trusted adult if they're a victim.
Don't overact or take away your child's cell phones if they tell you about something bad that they experienced online or with their cell phones. Instead, praise your child for being honest with you and tell them how much you appreciate the courage it took to confide in you.
Check your childrens' messages and photos sent and received so you know what's going on in their lives. You may feel uncomfortable "spying" on your childs' cell phone activity, but as a parent, your childs' safety comes first. If you don't recognize a number that seems to be dialed frequently, use an online reverse look-up service like dexknows.com. If you can't find a name, tell your child you noticed that number coming up on their phone in a missed call, or it's a name you didn't recognize. Then listen to their explanation, and if you have concerns, talk about it. Make a point to check in with your child regularly about how their friends are, and show an interest in any new friendships. Get to know their online friends as you would their real-life friends by becoming friends on Facebook, joining twitter or myspace.
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