For most of us, our smartphone is rarely far from our hands. There are many things to be said about our reliance on the little devices that holds so much of our lives. Good and bad. For parents, a cell phone can be a helpful tool when they need to keep in touch with their teens. But, as many news stories will tell us, there are some potential dangers to be aware of when it comes to cell phones and teens.
How can you keep your teen safe while assuring that they have access to their phone when needed? Perhaps the first thing you need to do is learn more about the potential concerns teens could face and the steps you can take to protect them.
The troubles cell phones can bring with them
Most have smartphones, which put a world of apps and access to other services right in their hand. If your teen had a simple phone that only made calls and allowed for text message exchanges, there are good odds he’d face much less potential for trouble with the device.
Some potential safety problems your teen may face through his phone could include the following:
- Access to apps and services they are too young to use, including dating apps and those that focus on sexting. Being interested in exploring topics surrounding sex and sexuality is a normal part of being an adolescent. The concern is that some teens may not always connect with others in their age range when using these apps and services. Many adults take a predatory approach when communicating with underage teens. When teens engage in discussions, and often photo exchanges, with other teens, there’s the concern that images and conversations can be used against them by bullies.
- The danger of strangers who may not be appropriate in their interactions with your teen. It’s possible for these people to remote install apps that can track your teen’s whereabouts. The ability to track your teen’s phone can be useful for you as the parent. It can be problematic for someone else to have access to this functionality. Teens don’t always think about the safety aspects of the technology that they rely on for socialization and communication.
- Driving and using a cell phone. This has long been an issue for teens and adults who don’t focus on driving as much as they focus on their phones while behind the wheel. This isn’t just dangerous. It’s life-threatening. There are countless tragic tales about teens being distracted behind the wheel, with their cell phones being the primary source of distraction.
- Social media and an ongoing need to check in. We’re all guilty of spending too much time checking our phones, whether scrolling through social media or reading the non-stop influx of news stories from around the world. Teens are also likely to spend too much time doing this. The concern is that not only are teens going to spend more time glued to their devices, but they are going to spend less time in the real world. They are also at risk of feeling overwhelmed and anxious, leading to depression due to the constant flow of information.
- Bullies have easier access. Even if your teen can successfully avoid becoming the target of bullies at school, it’s much easier for them to gain access to your teen through text and the various apps they use.
With so many concerns bundled in one device, it would be understandable if you are tempted to take your teen’s phone away altogether. That may be the right choice in some situations, but a more effective approach is to learn how to protect your teen best and to teach him to protect himself.
How can you protect your teen?
Cell phones are everywhere today. They do serve a valuable purpose, even for teens. With every potential risk your teen faces with his cell phone, how can you best protect him?
- Creating awareness is perhaps the essential thing that you can do to help protect your teen. Let him know about the potential risks that he could be facing when he’s using his cell phone. He may not necessarily take it as seriously as he needs to, but you must reinforce the concerns to him. Your teen may roll his eyes when you’re explaining the problems, but he may also be taking it in and listening.
- Creating boundaries and rules around your teen’s cell phone can be helpful. You could limit him to a phone that just makes calls and allows for text messages. This would solve several concerns, but it may not necessarily be the right choice for a teen in today’s busy world. Instead, establish boundaries that let your teen know which apps and services he can and should be using. Also, tell which hours your teen should be putting the phone down and focusing on other commitments.
- One of the strictest boundaries your teen should have about his cell phone will relate to driving. Your teen should not, under any circumstances, use his phone while driving. There are real consequences that could see him getting into an accident or someone losing their life.
- Let your teen know that you are always there for him, particularly if he feels like he is in trouble or has found himself communicating with the wrong types of people. Your teen must know he can come to you when he needs you.
- If your teen feels uncomfortable or upset by the things he reads online, he should feel safe speaking to you about them. The news can be frightening. There’s no doubt about that. Speaking with your teen about the information can help to ease some of his concerns and fears.
- Whether you want access to your teen’s cell phone will depend entirely on your relationship with him. If he’s at risk of getting into trouble hanging out with the wrong crowd or you suspect he’s using and abusing drugs or alcohol, then it might be a good thing for you to understand what he’s been doing on his cell phone. That said, your teen does expect and deserve a level of privacy.
If your teen has been struggling, whether it be with bullies or drug addiction, there is no time to delay getting him the help that he needs. At HelpYourTeenNow we are dedicated to partnering parents of troubled teens with the right resources to get their teens back on track.