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Oh My Tech!: Tips and rules for the young cellphone owner

By Vince Horiuchi

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Dec 20 2012 07:19 am • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:33 pm

Many of you may be getting a phone for your teen for the holidays. If so, heaven help you.

No matter how hard you try to control your teen’s use of that new phone, you likely will fail. Your teen will text every waking minute of the day and sleep with his or her phone at night. Go ahead, try to stop them. Once that phone lands in their hands, never expect to have an actual conversation with them ever again.

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That’s not to say you shouldn’t at least sit down with them to talk about their new toy. Like Spider-Man was told, with great power comes great responsibility. Therefore, giving a cell phone to your youngster should come with rules.

So here are two lists of tips and rules to consider — one for parents, the other for kids.

The first is a list of tips from Safety Web, a cloud-based company that helps parents monitor the reputation, privacy and safety of kids online.

1. Get educated and prepared • Talk to your kids about the dangers of inappropriate cell phone use, including sexting and texting while driving.

2. Select features carefully • Select only those phone features appropriate for the age of your child. For example, consider giving young children a featureless phone.

3. Use parental controls • If your child has a smartphone, consider turning on parental controls to restrict use of objectionable websites or to block other social media features.

4. Limit usage • Set time limits on when and where they may use their phones. My second list will have more on this.

5. Use monitoring services • Look into services that can monitor what your children do on their phone. Tell them you will check their phone occasionally for inappropriate texts, etc. After all, who’s paying the bills?

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6. Don’t answer unknown calls • Tell your child not to answer calls or text messages from numbers they don’t recognize. Teach them how to block unwanted calls.

7. Pre-program numbers • Make sure their phone has all the important phone numbers — such as all your work and cell numbers — programmed for easy access.

8. Advocate privacy • Teach your children the importance of keeping their phone number and other family numbers private. Tell them not to post numbers on social-media sites like Facebook.

9. Restrict downloads • Make sure children don’t download ringtones, games or other content without your consent. Some of these digital downloads can come with viruses or have hidden fees.

The second list is my "Ten Commandments of Texting," which I created for a column in 2010 when I tried to limit my daughter’s texting.

Your child will certainly tell you that his or her main form of communication with friends is through texting. That’s probably true (which has killed face-to-face socialization, but that’s for another column). Someone I know, for example, sends and receives about 35,000 texts per month. That comes down to about one per minute during a waking 18-hour day.

Here are the commandments I gave my daughter three years ago along with her first phone. A definite clip-and-save!

1. NO texting at the dinner table.

2. NO texting while in the car and talking with your family.

3. NO texting at events with the family.

4. NO texting at any time while in a restaurant with the family.

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