Balancing trust, and technology with your kids

Technology is intended to help expedite and simplify daily functions and operations.

As a parent with two young boys, I would beg to differ!
Trust between parents and teenagers is a delicate balancing act. They want freedom, parents want safety.

With cell phones now offering Internet access, text messaging and email, children have even more options to connect with one another. And, parents have even more reason for concern. Somewhere between forbidding them to have a cell phone and giving them unmonitored access lies safe and reasonable compromises.

Both of our boys have mobile phones. The phones have proven very useful in times of emergencies, unexpected changes in plans and as a security blanket. But, with every phone call and text message, the parent in us wants to know who and what is said without smothering their maturing independence.

Neither my wife nor I have any qualm with repercussions for miss-use of any item, including a mobile phone. But we are not with them 24/7 and more importantly to become mature, productive young men they have to experience both the good and bad. As parents it is our responsibility to be involved intricately as well as an active sideline participant. Hence, the delicate balancing act.

We made sure to have a conversation regarding expectations with their phones, prior to them punching in their first text message. And yes parents, purchase unlimited texting for your family mobile plan. You will quickly learn that most kids will text message before they ever place a phone call. So it is in your best interest to learn this skill if you desire communicating with them via mobile.

While there are available control and monitoring services, I cannot stress the importance of your kids knowing there will be consequences and at any moment you may need to delve into their mobile phone usage. We strongly recommend you do this on a regular basis and not when you think something might be amiss.

First is to ask for assistance through your mobile phone provider. Sales associates will explain to you what you have available with your plan and those options that would be included with other plans. Our provider had additional or more robust monitoring tools for a nominal monthly fee.

The family plan we‰Ûªve chosen is a middle of the road plan, and of course has unlimited texting. With this plan we have basic features readily available to us. Via our mobile phone or through the internet, we can monitor the amount of minutes each phone is using towards our total family plan. This helps avoid expense surprises due to overages. Via the internet we can view all calls and text messages from a date and time stamp point of view.

Unfortunately, we cannot view the entire text or listen to the phone call. Time spent on the Internet or items downloaded can be tracked, but not the exact places visited online. We have the ability to set day and time parameters for our kids to use their cellphone, as well as blocking certain phone numbers from even making contact. Likewise, we can establish a list of ‰ÛÏsafe‰Û numbers that the kids can call at anytime.

After a bit of leg work and simple monitoring, you can develop a sense of whether your child is using the phone appropriately.

Check your statement each month, set these basic parameters as you see fit and question those things that do not make sense. Just last month I notice an extra $5 service charge on our bill. A quick call to my provider reminded me this was the protection plan covering our youngest son‰Ûªs new phone.

However, if you feel the need for more specific monitoring or develop a ‰ÛÏmother‰Ûªs‰Û intuition, you will then need to look for help outside your mobile providers realm. There are a myriad of products to assist in this area, including the easy and very visual ‰ÛÏReport My Kid‰Û bumper sticker for those teenagers who drive and use their mobile phone against parental request. Others who see the child driving recklessly can call the number and leave a recorded message that‰Ûªs sent to your email with the details.

For a less abrupt and non-confrontational method there are pieces of software that will do what services providers cannot. These software packages arrive with different costs and/or annual fees, but they provide more information on the phone calls and text messages than was missing from your service provider. From a cyber-bullying concern, certain software exists to notify you notify immediately should a certain number try to contact phones within your plan. To create a safer mobile environment, you can purchase software that loads onto the phone and then tracks your child‰Ûªs texting and phone usage, including what was said and to whom. Some even include GPS location capabilities as well.

But with most purchases for your maturing kids, due diligence will be required to make sure the purchase covers your needs. For example, some very good monitoring software works only on smartphone packages, but if you child does not have a smartphone then these advantages are rendered useless.

It‰Ûªs tragic just how many parents have not yet equated internet and messaging usage on a mobile phone to that of a desktop or laptop computer. While there are monitoring and tracking tools available, communicating and doing your parental homework is essential. It is not an easy task, but your connection with your child will always prove more valuable than any piece of software. Use the additional assistance to augment the relationship you develop as your child matures into adulthood.

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