As summer draws to a close, it’s time to think about the inevitable return to school. For today’s parents that means thinking about technology, specifically cell phones and smartphones, as much as new pencils and notebooks. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Make some rules. Many schools already have rules about mobile phone usage. The most typical scenario is that your school will allow your child to carry a mobile phone but not allow use during class. These phones, after all, can be of educational value for everything from keeping your homework assignment to getting a little extra coaching. To keep cell use in line, many schools have a policy where if you’re caught using your phone when you’re not supposed to, it’s taken away. In some cases you must pay a fine to buy it back; in other cases parents are notified, and there are all sorts of other in-between scenarios.
Some schools have policies where students check their phones at the door and pick them up after school. This June the New York Post ran an astonishing story about a new business where trucks would station themselves outside of schools and hold the student’s phones. For a price, of course: students would pay $1 a day to store their phones either in trucks that park around the buildings or nearby stores. And according to the Post, profits for some locations were as high as $22,800 a day.
I’ve assembled some good, basic guidelines for any parent wondering about dealing with their kid and their kid’s mobile phone during the school year:
1. Find out what your child’s school’s policy is regarding the use of mobile phones.
2. Decide whether you want to get your child a smartphone that might actualy have more educational relevance or a simple mobile phone for emergency calls and texting only.
3. If you settle on a smartphone, establish some rules for app store purchases: a budget, and what sorts of apps are OK to buy. Can they buy ringtones? Educational apps only? Will you have an app allowance?
4. Decide on “phone off” hours. No texting, games, or other mobile diversions during dinner and after bedtime, for example, should be part of the contract.
5. We all lose our cell phones sometime, but if your child has a predilection for misplacing and breaking them, there should be some penalty to pay.