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How to Keep Your Kids From Ruining Their Electronics

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When my oldest daughter turned thirteen, I gave her her first cell phone. She lost it within a week. Later that year, she tried to download the Katy Perry movie, and instead introduced a virus onto our family computer that wiped it flat. (She thought I wouldn’t notice that she was downloading pirated movies onto the computer I use every day.)

I realized I had to change my approach to technology. After all, I had two more kids to get through after my daughter, and I wasn’t about to hear either of them tell me “I don’t know where my phone is.” I’m still having to nag at them about leaving their winter coats on the bus.

So these are the steps I took to help my kids check themselves before they wrecked themselves — or wrecked another one of my computers!

1. Phones come with rules.

Remember the mom who wrote that 18-point iPhone contract for her son? The one that began “It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?” I decided my kids needed a similar set of rules. Not quite as draconian, maybe, but enough to cover the basic rules of owning a phone:

  • Don’t break it
  • Don’t lose it

So now I fine my kids one week’s allowance every time they leave their phone behind on the bus, or leave it by the pool after swim practice. And yes, I have had to enforce this. I also made my oldest daughter pay for her own phone repairs after she dropped it in the sink while trying to text and brush her teeth at the same time. (Kids are insane.)

2. I will check the computer history, so no illegal downloads.

My kids have cable and Netflix and they still want to download copyrighted media from the internet. So now, I check the history every night. Of course, I know that there are ways to delete history and all of that, so I’ve also beefed up my computer security. I went to, trendmicro.com, an internet security software site and learned that you can actually get a lot of viruses from social media now, which means I definitely need the extra internet security protection. My kids scream like banshees whenever I try to pry them from social media. I keep telling them they’re going to hate Facebook when they’re older, but they don’t believe me.

3. We treat our electronics like we treat the good china.

Contrary to popular belief, electronics are not indestructible. You never play keep-away with the iPad. (Yes, I had to make that rule.) After several screen cracks, soda spills, keyboard crumbs and other disasters, I finally sat my kids down and said “Here’s the deal. We have to treat these things like they are extremely fragile. We have to care for our electronics, not toss them around. Also: if you break them, I’m not buying any new ones.” And yes, I had to enforce that, and this year my middle son bought his own replacement cell phone.

The truth is that kids are going to be kids, and even I cracked an iPhone screen once when I accidentally dropped it while reaching for a call. And some people might call my “you break it, you buy it” policy as draconian as that other mom’s 18-point cell phone contract. But I also know I need to teach my family electronic caretaking habits that are going to last a lifetime. After all, they’re never going to live in a world without tiny, fragile, easily-lost devices that contain all of their personal information, so they had better learn now.

What about you? How do you keep your children from accidentally destroying their phones, laptops, and other electronics? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. I’m sort of amazed that the lesson of “you break it, you don’t get another one for free” is considered “draconian” by some. Isn’t that just part of life? If I drop my phone and break it, I don’t get to walk into T-Mobile and say “but it wasn’t my fault” and just have them hand me a replacement. I have to pay for it.

    I honestly think these lessons need to go for everything – not just electronics. The things you have – ALL of them – cost money. If you take them for granted and are careless and damage or destroy them, you don’t get another one for free. Whether that’s an iPad, a pair of jeans, or anything in between.

  2. What helps us (family with 5 kids from 16 to 2 years) is to fit protective cases to the phones and iPads. Even our 2 year old twins have an (old) iPad and it has already survived a year of very hard use. The iPads for the older children all have pretty cool military spec protective cases and till now we have not had a cracked screen or any other damage. The cases do not protect against loss though…

    • I have heard good things about the new protective cases they have come out with…my only reservations on those is that they increase the weight of the tablet, phone, etc, quite a bit! But I suppose it’s better than buying a new one lol.

  3. I have a seven-year old daughter, she has her own tablet and a smartphone. Luckily she takes good care with her electronic things, after she uses it, she put it in her closet.

  4. Our son is thirteen and we’ve been very lucky: he is more careful with his stuff than I am with mine. He still has toys that his grandad bought for him when he was 9 months old. Never broken any electronics but he had his phone stolen at school while playing rugby. Nothing more to do then have his phone insured.

  5. Daughter is too small now, but she’ll clearly have her own gadgets when she’s the right age. I don’t think what you describe here is draconian, both me and her dad are very careful with our belongings, she needs too do the same.

  6. These sound like good policies.

    I think for phones, it might be worth the peace of mind to make the kids pay for insurance and the deductible. Sorta like saying, “We’ll get you one as a necessity, but it’s out of your pocket if you lose or break it”

  7. My children did not come of age in the cell-phone era. But, they have children. My 19-yr-old grandson only broke one cell-phone after he had owned one for five years. I think my daughter replaced that one. Other than that, in the seven years he has owned his own laptop and cell phone plus lots of games, he has never lost or broken anything and never introduced a virus. However, the 12-yr-old daughter is not that careful or responsible!

    I wrote a 21 point contract for ex-bf’s daughter when I had her phone on my contract. I had the power to turn it off using my computer. She did not mind her grandmother, father, or me. She did as she pleased and her father backed her up against me and grandmother. She now probably thinks a contract to buy a car or anything else is meaningless. She will not fare well in life. She was 14 then and 20 now, and refuses to hold a job. I suppose he still just gives her what she wants all the time.

    The first thing her mother’s gf did was to text her all the time, even during school hours. My phone bill was $1008 for the last month. No, her father and I no longer are in contact. The kid bullies her grandmother, cursing her frequently. I do talk to the grandmother.

    I did pull out, “I own this phone.” She called me incessantly if I turned off the phone and then left the house. I finally just blocked her number. Her daddy thought I was mean to remind her it was my phone. The father is 60 and still lives with his mother.

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