Friday, November 2, 2012
No, not necessarily out of nostalgia or because I'm sentimental, but because I look at the photos and wonder how it's possible that the years have gone by so quickly. These full-fledged kids were once these little, toothless, grinning, innocent beings?
When I look at my girls now, I'm filled with mixed feelings. Things like love and pride, of course, but also with anticipation and nervousness over what the future holds and for all of the encounters and situations that they might be in that could cause them sadness, heartbreak or worse.
Therefore, when it comes to their safety, I'm always looking for ways that we can increase the likelihood of staying connected — whether it means them calling home for a ride, letting me know they're safe after driving in bad weather or more. Which is why I was happy to participate in a recent AT&T Mobile Safety webinar and find out tips, tools, resources and stats that I can utilize to keep my family safe as my kids get into the world of cellular devices.
AT&T knows that mobile phones are an important part of family life today, and they help parents stay connected with their children. But, along with the practical use of phones comes other issues: bullying, privacy, texting while driving and others. So, what does "wireless safety" truly mean and how can that information benefit families?
After developing their Mobile Safety program, AT&T has made it possible to educate parents on what safety means when it comes to mobile devices, and to provide resources that help parents navigate this day-to-day issue in their homes.
For starters, AT&T conducted a study of 1,000 parents and 500 kids – ages 8-17 – on a variety of topics that relate to mobile phones, devices and other issues. What they found may or may not surprise you: the average age that a child receives their first mobile phone is 12. Not when they start driving or even when they hit the teenage years, but 12.
While we have a couple years until Big Sister E reaches 12, I'm actually not sure about whether or not we would consider getting her a phone at that age. On the one hand that seems young and unnecessary... but, on the other hand, I can see the large benefits (and my relief) at being able to reach her at all times.
The stat that I have a more difficult time wrapping my head around is that AT&T Mobile Safety found that of kids who have mobile phones, 34% of those have smartphones.
Although being able to check in with my daughter to make sure she is safe appeals to me, the thought that she could have the internet at her fingertips at any point of the day does not. Do I want her to call me to tell me that her soccer practice has been cancelled and she is going to a friend's house? Yes. Do I want her watching who-knows-what inappropriateness on YouTube? Not so much.
When it comes to concerns about cell phones, attending this webinar showed me that I'm not alone with many of my thoughts and fears. In fact, AT&T has found:
So it looks like parents have every right to be worried!
While I was beginning to fret as I thought about all of the issues that we would have to deal with as soon as my girls get mobile phones, AT&T Mobile Safety had some great suggestions that can help:
1. Decide if a mobile phone is right for your child. There is no magic age as to when a child "should" have a cell phone. Every family is different, and this is a personal decision that happens within the family unit. One of the resources offered by AT&T Mobile Safety is an article titled "My First Phone," that lists many great recommendations as to when and why to give mobile phones to kids.
2. Set rules! While 66% of kids said they do have rules on their phone usage, 90% said they would be OK with their parents setting rules. Now that's an opportunity! Although some parents might not be setting rules because they don't think their kids will follow them, it appears that may not be the case.
3. Talk to your kids about mobile safety. Two out of five kids say their parents have not talked to them about mobile safety, and they are more likely to have heard from their parents about stranger danger, alcohol, drugs and sex education than cell phone safety. While these are the standard safety issues that kids learn about from their parents and at school, these other issues are a reality for kids in today's world.
4. Limit texting. AT&T has a product called Smart Limits for wireless. Costing only $4.99 per month, parents are able to set a monthly limit for the number of text messages that their child can send.
5. Model good phone behavior. As with just about everything else in life, kids are learning a lot of their mobile phone behaviors from adults. Therefore, if we aren't talking on the phone while driving, texting at the dinner table or checking our email every free second of the day, our kids won't see those as normal behaviors.
In the end, AT&T has realized that families need tools and tips to address the growing list of wireless safety issues. As their goal is to empower parents to start the conversation about mobile safety and move away from focusing on restricting their children's connectivity, they have put together a variety of resources to help parents.
From learning what other families are doing through videos, or downloadable tip sheets, the AT&T Mobile Safety website has a wealth of information available to anyone who is interested. Plus, you can join in the discussion about safety issues, while exchanging tips and advice... while also winning prizes! Join the AT&T Mobile Safety Twitter party on November 9 at 2p ET at #ATTMobileSafety!
I received compensation from AT&T and The Motherhood as part of my participation in this campaign. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are honest and my own.