Handing over a smartphone to your tween is like driving down a country road at night with no lights. You have no idea what might lurk around the corner, so you start out slow and keep a watchful eye.
Not just rules, but smartphone manners
But eventually her curiosity widens – and so does her network. Your once-present tween is suddenly amped up on apps, poking around on Pinterest and fiddling with Facebook way more than the two of you agreed. With all the swooshing, beeping and flashing going on it’s now more difficult than ever to get your tween to look at you when talking. One reason could be because when you initially handed over the smartphone, you talked more about minutes than manners. You need to have the discussion about smartphone manners. Sure, you need to know how long your tween is talking on the phone and what she’s slinging on Instagram. But equally important is her smartphone etiquette. Because when it comes right down to it, the best cell phone plan comes from mom.
Protect the playdate
Bringing a phone to a friend’s house should not be automatic. If one person dashes to the phone every time it dings, it sends the message that someone else is more important. Teach your tween to focus on the face in front of them – not the friend on Face Time – when visiting with peers.
Ditch it when dining
Insist that your tween keep her smartphone in the car when eating out. Set the expectation that meals are a time to connect and unwind – without any digital distractions. And make sure your own smartphone is tucked inside your purse, not resting on the table.
Lead by example
Let your tween see you engaged in real time. Yes, your son’s double-header baseball game can be l-o-n-g. But if you whip out your phone at the first sign of boredom, your tween will, too. Teach her that being present in public is important when it comes to others’ feeling (ahem, her brother) and her own safety.
Turn it off
Give your tween examples of when the phone should go silent. According to parenting educator and author Jan Faull, cell phones are off limits in places like the library, a waiting room and theater. Tell your tween that carrying on a phone conversation while others are within 10 feet is disrespectful, and can make people feel invisible and alienated.
Converse with class
Role play on how your tween should make a phone call with her smartphone – especially when calling a friend’s home line. Saying, “Hi, Mrs. Smith, this is Kate. May I please speak with Sophie?” goes much further with parents than “Is Sophie there?” Never make someone – especially a friend’s parent – go on an archeological dig to find out information about why you’re calling.
Now it’s your turn. How have you taught your tween to keep her tweets in the wings and her manners front and center?
Southern California-born and raised Lisa Finn has more than 15 years of experience writing for print and online. Her writing can be found on the pages of L.A. Parent, Bikini.com, ModernMom, California Apparel News and Spa magazine. She primarily writes beauty, fashion and lifestyle articles, but also writes copy for mompreneurs who need help with their editorial needs. Her ghostwriting clients make regular appearances on shows such as The Doctors, Today, HGTV and CNN. She lives with her husband, three children under 11 years old, and a big, fluffy Labradoodle who keeps her company while she writes. Connect with Lisa at ww.lisafinn.net or on Twitter @LisaFinn17.
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