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.