Q • My daughter is 10 and in the fourth grade. All of her friends have cell phones, and her father bought her one for Christmas. Since we divorced a couple of years ago and he travels so much with his job, I went ahead and agreed to him getting her one so that she could keep in touch with him. I noticed her cell phone on the kitchen counter as it was making a noise and I looked at a message. It appears that most of her texts are to boys in her class. Is this normal for her age? Since her dad is out of town so much, I'm concerned that she's trying to seek approval from boys just to have a male figure in her life. What's the best way to talk to her about this and to also teach her that she needs to be careful of the context of the texts she's sending?
From a reader • My daughter's dad did the same thing when she was 8. To my surprise, she and one other child in her class were the only two who didn't already have a cell phone. With an older cousin coming over to our house three times a week, she quickly learned how to use it. Texting became one of her favorite things to do. I had to limit her usage and actually took it away for a certain amount of time each day and didn't allow her to take it to her bedroom at night. I had her dad text me a time when he would be calling or texting her and I'd give the phone back to her for this time frame. — C.E. in San Antonio, Texas
From Jodie Lynn • It sounds like she has quickly built a passion for texting, which is pretty normal.
I realize some parents allow their kids to take their phones to school and some teachers allow them to be used in the classroom, but I'm not so sure this is such a good idea, at least for elementary school children.
The deal is that many kids and adults think that these messages are private between two people but of course, they can easily be changed, shared with others and even posted on social media.
Limiting her use of the phone and monitoring her activity is probably going to be your best option in helping to minimize what could become costly mistakes.
I think finding out when her dad is going to contact her, like the reader above did, is an excellent plan.
As far as if she's seeking the approval of the male gender due to her father's absence, that might be a real possibility, but it could also be that she's simply braver talking to boys via texting.
Either way, you'll have to teach her proper cell phone etiquette and explain why text messages can be dangerous and how the context can be misunderstood.
CAN YOU HELP?
We have a 2-year-old son who is very interested in body parts. He takes a bath with me and sometimes his dad. He'll point to certain parts on our body and then look at himself and then back at us. What should we say about the areas he's puzzled about? Is he old enough to understand anything or should we just start covering up and stop taking baths together?
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Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.
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