Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Teens and Data Plans: Does Your Teenager Need Internet on Their Cell Phone?

Teenagers in today’s society have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Just by using a web-enabled cell phone, they have access to everything the internet has to offer. News outlets across the United States have reported the unseen dangers, but many parents remain unaware of the trouble that can result.

Here are ten reasons you might want to consider canceling your teen’s data plan.
  1. Difficult to Monitor – Despite the parental controls that some service providers offer, a tech-savvy teen can still hide their tracks on a mobile device.
  2. Sexually Inappropriate Content – Not having a data plan makes sending questionable images to another cell phone much more difficult. The lack of online capabilities can greatly reduce the access your teen has to sexually inappropriate content, whether that means pornography or sharing ill-advised photos of themselves.
  3. Bullying – The bullying epidemic among older kids and teens is no secret. Limiting the capabilities of your teen’s cell phone can help protect them from some forms of bullying, or prevent them from being a bully to others.
  4. The Distraction Factor – Today’s teens spend an enormous amount of time using social networking sites from their phones, leaving them completely distracted from the world around them. Not having the ability to access such sites at their fingertips throughout the entirety of their day forces them to interact with their surroundings; everything from their grades to the conversation at the dinner table can improve when there’s no media plan available.
  5. Cheating – Having access to search engines during a difficult test can tempt even the most honest teen. Removing that temptation can help steer your teen away from making a decision that can have an adverse effect on their academic future.
  6. Usage Fees – The charges for data usage can be exorbitant, especially if your teen is downloading music, games and ringtones. Opting to have data usage disabled can save a small fortune, especially if you have more than one teenager on a family plan.
  7. Driving Dangers – While disabling data use doesn’t prevent texting, it can limit the available distractions. Have a talk with your teen driver about the dangers of texting while driving, but it might be a good idea to also consider dropping the data plan from their line for this reason as well.
  8. Peer Pressure and Risky Behavior – Today, everything from nudity to fighting is encouraged among groups of teens, simply for the purpose of recording and sharing the photos and video footage. Limiting the capabilities of your teen’s device can curtail his or her involvement in such risky or illegal behavior.
  9. Spreading of Harmful Rumors and Gossip – Though most wouldn’t use the term “blackmail,” that’s exactly what some teens are doing when they use photos and video caught on a cell phone to torment a classmate. Though disabling your teen’s data usage won’t protect them from being the victim of voyeurism, it will prevent them from sharing embarrassing footage of others.
  10. Too Much Information – Many social networking sites like Facebook offer the ability to “check in” from a mobile device. This publishes the user’s current location, sometimes complete with a map. For na├»ve teens, this doesn’t seem like an issue, but it can be dangerous if their privacy settings allow strangers to see the information.
Simply restricting your teen’s access to these services won’t keep them safe from the dangers of our high-tech society. It’s imperative to explain your reasons for not allowing mobile web access, and to have a conversation about the behaviors that a cell phone simply documents.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Teaching Teens and Kids About Saving Money This Summer

One of the most important skills for an adult to have in order to successfully manage her life and achieve independence is a strong grasp of how to effectively save and manage money. Unfortunately, this is also a skill that many parents find difficult to pass along. In the interest of helping your children grow into financially independent adults that know how to spend money responsibly, it’s essential that you begin instilling these skills at a young age. These hints can help you build the foundation for money saving habits, helping to ensure that your kids gain the skills they need to see them into the future.

Set Savings Goals
It’s tempting to give in to kids’ requests for big-ticket items, but you’re running the risk of instilling a sense of entitlement and passing up a valuable opportunity to foster strong money management skills by giving in to their whims. Instead of rushing out to make a pricey purchase, talk to your child about ways that he can save the money himself and then help him to reach that goal. Many kids operate best when they have a tangible end goal, rather than a vague idea of saving money “for a rainy day.” This also helps kids to understand the importance of not buying things they can’t afford, which can lead to dangerous credit over-extension later in life.
Give Kids a Structured Allowance
Giving kids an allowance is a time-honored tradition, but you can help your kids learn valuable money saving skills by insisting that a certain portion of their allowance be saved, while the rest is available for spending. When the habit of automatically setting some money aside is established early, the concept of saving as an adult isn’t so difficult to wrestle with. This also simulates the experience of paying bills and managing expenses, making that experience a less traumatic one than it would be if those lessons were learned in young adulthood.
Use Cash When Kids are Small
Older kids may love watching the numbers in a bank statement climb, but little ones will respond better to concrete representations of their amassed wealth. Use transparent jars as banks, and actively try to generate excitement as those jars are filled with cash. Depositing the lump sum into a savings account later will help to teach account management, but watching their stash physically grow will be more exciting when your children are too young to adequately grasp the concept of a bank balance.
Take Advantage of Everyday Teaching Opportunities
From talking about big sales to discussing unit price, there are a plethora of opportunities in everyday life that present themselves for the teaching of savings skills. Talking to kids about living frugally and setting money aside is easier when you’re discussing the concept you’re demonstrating. Remember, kids learn more about the world from observing their parents and other trusted adults than most people realize. Discussing how much things cost can also give kids a more realistic view of money as a tangible object in finite supply.
Open Savings Accounts With Older Kids
While younger children will respond best to watching their money physically grow, older kids need to learn the essential skills that are required to successfully maintain a balance in their bank account. Take your child to the bank and discuss the options for savings accounts while he’s there to listen. Walk him through the basics, and make sure that he understands that you’re there to help him. You may be surprised at the insightful questions he asks about account management.
Give Kids Independence Over Their Spending Decisions
In order to truly learn about financial responsibility, kids need to have some measure of independence over their savings. This means that you’ll have to allow him to make a mistake or two in order to learn from them. Don’t berate him for mistakes or jump to bail him out of the mess. Instead, take the time to talk about what went wrong and how to fix the situation responsibly. Remember that every mistake is a learning experience for your child, especially when it comes to money management.