Q: My son is 13, and I want him to have a cellphone, but Im not sure if hes mature enough to handle the responsibility. Any suggestions?
RICHARD B., COLUMBUS, OHIO
A: Cellphones are so powerful that kids need guidelines to avoid what we call the Digital Deficit thats being disconnected (from people, including parents), depressed and disrespectful. Fortunately, you now have an opportunity to protect your childs health, while you teach him etiquette. That will put you in the vanguard only 20 percent of parents set boundaries or offer advice on conduct.
Why is it important to do that? Kids are happier when theyre not always on call. Many teens wake up during the night to receive texts, and sleep disruption causes everything from poor grades to pimples. The heaviest media users (kids connected to cells, TV and computers 16 hours a day!) are more apt to fail at school, be blue and fight with parents. Plus, teaching cell-etiquette (no talking on elevators, not within 10 feet of someone inside and never on public transportation) helps kids become aware of their effect on others, and that makes people respond more positively to them.
So write up a contract that spells out these guidelines: No cellphones in school, in the bedroom after lights out, and no texting while engaged in conversations or at the dinner table. Also, hes not to post photos of anyone online without permission. Plus, youll check downloads for inappropriate material. And he has to answer your calls (unless hes in school or, a few years from now, driving).
Parents need to follow some guidelines, too: When children talk to parents on the cell they feel theyre getting about 50 percent of the attention theyd get face to face.
The You Docs Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic are authors of YOU: Losing Weight. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com. A King Features syndicate.