Please DON'T Buy Your Kids a Data Plan!
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
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.