Earlier this month I wrote a post about a virtual AT&T Mobile Safety School I was going to attend. I am so glad I was afforded this opportunity. It was a huge help.
I feel more prepared now for when my son is ready for a cell phone. I learned some things I hadn’t thought of, and I realize that I am NOT alone in my worries. There really is something comforting in knowing you are not alone.
Everyone’s situation is different. My son is almost ten and doesn’t have a mobile phone. He has a couple of friends that do. We don’t feel my son needs one. We know where he is at all times. And what few times we are not with him, we know exactly where he is, and there is a way for him or an adult to contact us.
My son does have an older iPhone that he plays games on, but no phone access or texting. When will we allow him to have access? We really aren’t sure. I can’t imagine him needing one for awhile. He hasn’t ever asked for one either, so that makes it easy for now.
I would like to share with you some of the things I learned during the virtual AT&T Mobile Safety webinar…
Many of you have probably either asked or been asked…what the right age to give a child a mobile phone? While we can’t really say what’s “right” – we can tell you that the average age is 12.1. Kids’ first phones by age group:
- Age 8-11 – average age 9.5 yrs
- Age 12-14 – average age 11.3 yrs
- Age 15-17 – average age 13.3 yrs
In addition, we found that, of kids who have mobile phones, 34% have smartphones. Percentage of smartphone adoption by age group:
- Age 12-14 – 35% have smartphones
- Age 15-17 – 37% have smartphones
What parents are concerned about in their kids’ use of mobile phones:
- 89% are worried about texting and driving
- 67% are concerned about bullying text messages
- 69% are concerned about sexually suggestive messages
- 77% are worried about their kids receiving calls from unknown numbers.
What we found interesting is how those worries related to what was actually happening, according to kids:
- Over HALF have been in a car with someone who was texting and driving
- Over 1 in 5 have received a mean text message
- Almost half have a friend who received a sexual picture or message
- 69% have received a call from an unknown number.
Scary, huh? I’m sure some kids tell their parents about these worrisome incidents, but I would say the majority do not. We have to keep the communication lines open, so our kids feel okay about telling us about them.
We also asked kids about the rules they have on their mobile phones. 66% said they do have rules on their phone usage. BUT, 90% said they would be OK with their parents setting rules. What we see there is an opportunity.
This is something I have always believed… kids really do want rules/regulations. They need guidelines. Even if you think they don’t, they really do. It gives them a scapegoat. They can then blame their parents because they can’t do something.
The findings show that 76% of parents monitor their kid’s phones. Trust me, I would be in that 76%. I have to admit, I wish it were 100%. I know as long as my son is under the age of 18, he is MY responsibility. His safety is my top priority.
I loved the analogy used during the AT&T Mobile Safety School by Lesley Backus and Whaewon Choi of Fleishman-Hillard (who worked with AT&T to develop the Mobile Safety School program):
Culturally, things have shifted. That first step of freedom once was getting the keys to the car at age 16. Now the phone is the new status symbol. It’s not a reason to get a phone for your child, but it is interesting that the phone has become the new ticket to freedom in a lot of ways.
Several questions were raised during the webinar. From “Why do kids 8 – 11 actually need a phone?” to “My son texts a lot and I can’t get him to stop. Any suggestions?”. Many of us parents that were in attendance gave our opinions. And those who have older children were able to give some advice.
I found out that AT&T has a product called Smart Limits for wireless. It’s $4.99 per month, and you can set a monthly limit for the number of text messages you want your child to be able to send.
Another tip I received was to keep the children’s phones charged in their bedrooms, so kids can’t stay up late or all throughout the night texting with their friends.
Boy, things sure have changed. Our kids today are growing up in a fast-paced, connected world. So we better be prepared. I sometimes feel like I’m holding my breath and when my son becomes an adult I can finally breath. Maybe? Nah, probably not.
AT&T has put together a variety of resources to help parents. From learning what other families are doing through videos, or downloadable tip sheets. Check out http://www.att.com/familysafety for a wealth of information available to anyone who is interested.
Join the AT&T Mobile Safety Twitter party on Friday, Nov 9 @ 2pm – 3pm EST! The hashtag – #ATTMobileSafety For more information: http://twtvite.com/attmobilesafety
Disclosure: I received compensation from AT&T and The Motherhood for my participation in this campaign. As always opinions are 100% my own.