Taking a break from sharing crafts today to talk about parenting and texting!
My 12 year old daughter received an iPod touch from her Grandparents for Christmas.

We immediately sat her down and went over the ground rules – inappropriate use, internet safety, etc. And within the week she broke several of them. It is bound to happen, especially at that age, testing the waters of their independence, but also giving into peer pressure. Many of her friends have cell phones or iPods and most of their parents don’t seem to police them at all. They kept telling her to try this or that on her device even though we had discussed these things with her.

  She lost the iPod for a week and then we again sat down with her. Only this time, we had taken necessary steps to help her stay within the rules. We removed Safari and replaced it with Mobicip, a browser (available for iPhone/iPhones and also for Android) made with tweens/teens in mind. It only lets them visit age appropriate websites and sites that we approve. It has a high safety search to help filter out the inappropriate content.  We have the free version, but if you pay an annual fee you will receive access to view all your child’s internet usage. We also set the parental controls on her device and told our daughter that at bedtime each night she is to hand us her iPod and it should not be in her room overnight.

Fast forward two months and she has been doing really well. We do not allow her to have an email, though she does have one through school because they use Gmail and Google Drive for homework, but that is monitored and for academic purposes only.  Anyway, there have been times I’ve wanted to get a message to her and thought it would be SO easy to email or text her, but we didn’t want to open that can of worms. It is hard for tweens to understand that the things they text become a permanent record and can be traced back to them. It’s the same with Facebook, which is why she will not have one until at LEAST age 14, which is the requirement for FB, even though MANY of her friends do. I have younger siblings (both 15) and many younger cousins and I see the danger of both texting and Facebook. The bullying that goes on, the chatting with strangers, the addiction to the technology. I want to make sure my daughter is prepared for all of it and also has the tools necessary so that she knows the dangers, and how to avoid getting into trouble.  That being said, I did think having texting would be nice so she could send me a message if an activity got done early or I could send her a message letting her know I was going to be five minutes late. I want to stress that some kids can not and should not text. They do not have the self-control or the awareness of the dangers. Do not give your child texting just because their friends have it! Have a conversation with them. Talk to them about internet safety and make the decision based on what is best for your child and your family.
Not sure what “internet safety” really means when it comes to children?
Check out the FBI’s Parent Guide to Internet Safety.

I took to the internet and found an app that I felt comfortable installing on her iPod.  It is called TextFree with Voice and it keeps a copy of all text messages that are sent and received, which can viewed from the web based dashboard.  Now I do want to stress that I want my daughter to gain our trust and we can’t do that if all we do is spy. She has to stumble, she may have to fall, in order to learn from her mistakes. But I do want the ability to check in now and again to make sure that she is following the rules and that she isn’t getting into trouble. I set-up the text app and put in all of my info so that she does not have access to the controls. We sat her down and discussed the rules, and explained the texting was more for us to be able to get in contact with each other but we were going to give her a probationary period at texting with friends. She is not to hand out her text number to strangers or people she barely knows. It is for good friends only, and we must approve. We also handed her a texting contract that we put together and asked her to sign. I then saved it onto her iPod so that she can refer back to it as necessary.  Below is the contract we gave her:

Texting Rules

1. Text responsibly and respectfully. Do not spread rumors or say mean things via text. Once it is sent it becomes a permanent record and can be traced back to you.  You will be held responsible for all of your text messages.

2. Do not text while at school. You are allowed to check your iPod at lunch and before getting on the bus to ensure that either Mom or Dad has not sent you an important message during the day.

3. Do not text when in a group gathering where your participation is required or when family and friends are visiting. You do not want to appear rude or make them feel like they are unimportant!

4. Do not send inappropriate photos or videos.  And never send pictures, including pictures of yourself, to someone you do not personally know.

5. Your iPod needs to be handed to Mom or Dad prior to bedtime. It should never be in your room overnight.

6. Texting is a privilege and can and will be taken away if the rules are not followed.

7. Mom and Dad reserve the right to check text messages at any time to ensure your safety.

8. The same rules apply while you are at a friends house.  If you feel that your friends may pressure you into breaking these rules, do not take your iPod with you.

I have read and understand these rules.

I agree to follow these rules and realize that if I do not, my texting privileges may be suspended or revoked.

Does your tween text? Do you police they’re technology use?

I have been blown away by the lack of parental guidance in this area!

What apps have you found to help provide your child a safe way to interact with technology?

Happy Creating! ~Kim

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Kim is a Marketing Director by day and Crafter/Blogger/Blog Designer by night. She lives with her husband, three beautiful children, and shih-tzu. You can also visit her design site, seven thirty three – – creative blog design.  For even more seven thirty three fun, like her on Facebook or follow along via Twitter!