Please DON'T Buy Your Kids a Data Plan!

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I’m a father, a grandfather and a stepfather, and am speaking on behalf of all the parents who feel strongly about protecting our children and young teens from what they don’t need to see on the Internet.  I’m addressing this to all the parents whose children have smart phones and tablets with internet connectivity and I’ll make it plain and simple, “Please don’t buy a data plan for that internet-ready device you are providing to your child or young teen!”  At the very least, please don’t let them leave the house with it.

I have been called old fashioned, too controlling, or even up tight, so any other labels won’t surprise me… bring it on.  We consider ourselves “doing our job.”  We have worked hard at home, providing our children and grandchildren with supervised access to the Internet so that they can enjoy reasonable entertainment, log in to text books for school, and check the latest funny cat videos on Youtube.  Every one of them has done it all from the family computer located in a common area for us to monitor.

Our kids have had standard cell phones and we have used
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our provider’s parent controls to determine who they can make calls to or receive calls from.  They never had Myspace, Facebook or Tumblr accounts and they have rarely had access to check their email.  It has always been our job to keep them safe from predators, trashy websites and inappropriate information, and we take our job very seriously.   We even change the password on the internet router regularly, just in case.

Have any of our children or grandchildren asked for these things?  Yes they have and each time we said no.  Have they gotten mad at us; of course they did.  That’s what they do.  And each time they got mad, we let them.  We are not their friends; we are their parents and grandparents.  And after their disappointment or anger from not getting what most of their friends had, subsided, we then heard  them practicing their musical instruments, spending extra time on homework, saw them drawing pictures or rearranging their bedrooms; all the things they may not have done if they had other distractions, like checking who said what on Facebook.

But as soon as they left the house and interacted with your children, they often became exposed to things they did not need to see.  Friends with internet-enabled devices showed them inappropriate videos and websites on the school bus or during breaks between classes.  Parents who allow their child or young teen to have devices with data plans make life extremely challenging for the rest of us.  

To all the parents who say, “We can’t know everything about the internet or social media or cell phones, so we’ll just have to trust our kids,” I say that ignorance is no excuse.  You wouldn't drop your child off in a city you weren't familiar with and pick them up a few hours or days later, would you?

To all the parents who say, “They are going to see it somewhere so what’s the big deal.  Besides, our children won’t fit in socially if they don’t have what their friends have,” I say just because they might see something inappropriate somewhere doesn't justify giving them full access.  And succumbing to the fear your child will become a social outcast is ridiculous.  What’s more important, ensuring your child fits in or keeping your child’s innocence safe and secure?

To all the parents who say, “We can’t control what our child does outside of our homes, like at a friend's house,” I say YES YOU CAN.  Common sense tells us to get to know the parents of those friends, meet with them for coffee and ask them what their policies are with their children, the Internet and social media.  If their policies don’t match ours, those friends automatically become invited to our house anytime but our children don’t go there.  How difficult is that?  I’m appalled with the number of kids that got dropped off in our driveway for our kids' parties, and we never met their parents!

To all the parents who say, “I’m not concerned.  I know my child/teen wouldn't do anything that I wouldn't want him/her to do.”  You may be suffering from what’s called the “Halo Effect.”  Most of us assume the best of our children, and we should.  But we also have to be realistic and cannot look past the fact that they are human.  They are affected by two very powerful forces: their own innocent curiosity and something that can often be more powerful than our influence as a parent; peer pressure.

And finally, to all the parents who say, “This is the digital age and it’s here to stay.  Let’s teach our children ‘digital citizenship’ to help them adapt,” I say sure, there are many benefits to the digital media and the Internet, but preserving our children’s innocence and keeping then safe automatically trumps any other benefits perceived.

Kids aren’t bad, they are just curious.  And the many parents who buy their kids data plans aren’t bad either; they just don’t want to say no to their children because it’s hard to do, especially when the majority of parents are giving in.  On behalf of the rest of us, please reconsider your position and don’t buy that data plan for your child’s phone.

Comments

  1. I'm surprised that you assume such a hostile tone "your kids," "your position," as if 1) other parents who are reading this all disagree with your stance, and 2) that we have a strong stance about all of the details that will require such strong persuasion. This sounds more like a blog post in response to a negative interaction than an instructive blog, but I haven't read many of the other articles posted.
    Other than the tone, I find this to be a helpful article. I agree with much of it, and will continue to consider these thoughts. It sounds like you could use the support of more parents in your immediate sphere who feel like you do. I hope that you find them! I'm sure they are out there. thanks for your thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for reading UNKNOWN. This post was in response to our horror at discovering what our child saw. And my tone was for good reason; as it appears that about 60 - 70% or our child's friend's have televisions in their bedrooms and unsupervised access to the Internet, at home and at school.

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  2. I couldn't agree more with you! I don't think your tone is hostile, I think you are caring and loving and that you want parents to WAKE up and see that it is NOT like it was when we were growing up! You are no longer able to protect your child from the outside dangers of the world in their own bedrooms, because the world is invited in by the internet whether we open the front door or not! Parents don't HEAR anyone knocking at the door because they don't pay enough attention to notice! Children ARE curious, and if they have a friend who encourages them to "check this out" they will, and it can be like taking your child into an x- rated movie and letting them watch, or any other type of adult evil that children are now exposed to! Don't let it happen to them! It is OUR responsibility as parents to make sure this does NOT happen! It is time to PAY ATTENTION and steer our children in the RIGHT direction!

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    1. Thank you for reading and for commenting Regina, and for not being afraid to use your name. Your support is welcome. I'd like to ask parents, "When did saying NO to our children become no longer acceptable on some things?" That's because may parents are too busy or emotionally distraught over their own personal lives to be able to pay closer attention to their children and the risks (and predators) out there, just waiting for them. I've hear too many parents say, "I can't control what she sees on other kids devices, and keeping tabs on her own device, so what's the use. I'll just have to trust her." And then all those other little girls with internet-enabled devices are infecting my little girl, who comes home and throws a fit because she can't have what all her other friends appear to have. To her, it now seems like everyone in the world have full access to the internet except her. And who does that make the bad guys? Us, her parents!

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  3. Hi Bill,
    First let me say how sorry I am that your little girl was exposed to such stuff. It is just lousy and frustrating.
    But I have to say that I laughed a little at your indignation that other people's poor parenting was making you look like the bad guy to your kid. I know you don't know me and this impersonal mode of communication often causes MIScommunication, so just know that it is with a broad grin that I say: "suck it up, dad!" :) You know that this is our lot, sometimes (read:often). I am the bad guy in my home more frequently than I would like; and God willing, I will continue to fight the good fight.
    You know, too, what we're up against. You outlined it succinctly in your article (which I loved and want to send to all of my daughter's friends' parents!). I guess that's why I found it funny to hear you grip about it in your response to Regina. But I share your frustration and wish it weren't so.
    Thank you for all you do/share to make us better parents. It is much appreciated.

    Beth Ann

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    1. I agree with you Beth Ann. It is my job to be the "bad guy" all the time, and I do it pretty well. In fact, when our young teen gets mad because she can't do something that all her friends appear to be able to do, I proudly know I'm doing my job. I do that all by myself with my rules and boundaries, I was just expressing that I don't need 'help' from other parents to play that role more than I need to. Thanks for reading and for taking the time out to comment! All the best!

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  4. Hi Bill! It has been a while since we have talked, but my husband and I continue to parent the same way, which is similar to your style. I only wish that our girls could get together and be friends. Our 15-year-old gets tired of being the only one who does not use technology. She is getting used to it though. And, ever since she started homeschooling in December, things are easier. Her homeschooling friends are way more understanding. Hang in there!

    Meredith

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  5. Thanks Meredith... great to hear from you.

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