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Help a Mom: iPhone access for a 13-year-old

Posted October 23, 2012

I received this email from a parent who is struggling with how much control she should have over her daughter's iPhone use.

Here's what she wrote:

My 13, almost 14-year-old, has an iPhone. We have struggled with her regarding usage limits (dinner, homework, bedtime), and have insisted on knowing her password for spot checks.

She has said she doesn't want us accessing her phone. I understand that she wants her "conversations" (texts) to be between her and her friends, but I also feel that she's 13 not 16, or 18, so it's our job to make sure she's making the right choices.

We don't want to put a wedge between us, but we want her to be safe. What is a reasonable guideline to use for this age?

Amanda Lamb touched on this a few weeks ago in her post "The Secret Life of Tweens."

Here are the rules in Amanda's house, according to her post:

"Our new rules include no erasing texts, and all electronics go off at 8 p.m. The phone and iPod are placed on my dresser for the night. I do not snoop. I make it clear to my daughter that I will be looking at her texts and posts.

Do I trust my daughter? Unequivocally, yes. Do I trust her to always make good word choices and proper choices about what photos are appropriate to post? No. At 12, it is impossible for a child to understand the possible long-term ramifications of their online communications. It is up to us as parents to guide them in the right direction and point out when they make mistakes.

And it's not just my own daughter's posts and texts that I am looking at. I also look at those made by her friends. I have learned a great deal about the people she associates with from what they say online."

Amanda's daughter is younger than this person's child, but I'm not sure age really matters here as long as the child is living under my roof. If my husband and I ever decide to give our kids a smartphone, I suspect we'll use some version of Amanda's rules.

How would you handle this situation? What has worked for you?

Please share your tips in the comments box below. (If you don't see the comments box below, you'll need to log in or sign up for a WRAL account. You can do that by going to the top of the page and clicking on either "log in" or "register").

Help a Mom features questions from readers every Wednesday. If you have a question that you'd like to ask Go Ask Mom readers, click here to email it to me.


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  • angelienna Oct 25, 2012

    My son is 16 1/2 years old. I still spot check all his texts, I have his email password and his facebook password. I even log into FB and update his status so he knows I have been there checking. I trust my son fully, but I don't have full trust in the rest of the world. My job is to make sure that he makes it to adulthood with some common sense and goals... nothing says he has to like me when he gets there. Just talk to your daughter and if she doesn't understand, then she isn't mature enough for the phone.

  • iriemom Oct 25, 2012

    My husband and I noticed a bunch of young teens at the Apple store logged into twitter, etc on the display merchandise texting away. What they do is not limited to the hardware the parent provides! My kids are younger, but we're already thinking about what the limits are going to be when they are more "out there".

  • Killian Oct 25, 2012

    "She has said she doesn't want us accessing her phone."

    Excuse me? Is she the parent who pays for this phone or are you? A 13 year old child with a cell phone is one thing if it's needed for sports/after school activity communication with parents, but there is no child who *needs* the ability to text at all. None.

    This parent needs to stand up, find her spine and reinstall it. Your child should not be the adult in the house.

  • piratepeople2 Oct 25, 2012

    be a parent-who cares if the child doesn't "want" you checking her phone-you are the one paying the bill. If it's that big a prblem-then they don't need said smart phone!

  • computer trainer Oct 25, 2012

    Parents might want to consider this ALSO for your children who have Ipods.

  • katizs Oct 24, 2012

    i agree with many of these comments - I have a 14 yr old and she has rules with her txt messages - she is not allowed to delete anything until I see it - I check my phone bill to make sure she hasn't tried to hide anything & I also check her contact list - the phones are put away at night & I ask her for her phone when she least expects it to check on all contacts & messages - YOU are the PARENT - not the child - @ 13 I believe she has NO RIGHT to tell you that you can't something you pay for - if she wants that privilege - have her pay the phone bill in HER name - BE THE MOM

  • missparrothead Oct 24, 2012

    YOU are the parent. I agree with Amanda's post. My other friends have very similar rules. Phones open up a "Pandora's Box", and we are the parents to guide them and set boundaries. Best wishes. I'll be there someday soon.

  • HopingForABetterWorld Oct 24, 2012

    This is the problem with society. Fewer and fewer people have the courage to actually BE PARENTS. We aren't supposed to be our child's friends first. We are to be their parents first. Set the rules, and when they "hate" you for it, teach them about real life. Friendship with our children is a benefit that comes later in life, after we are done raising them. We baby our kids too much, and look at all the terrible things happening in society.

  • righthere1234 Oct 24, 2012

    I don't understand why a 13 year old needs an iPhone. I also don't understand why this is a question. You tell the child (which is what a 13 year old is) that either you get the passwords or the phone goes on ebay. It's very simple. It's not very hard to set guidelines as to when usage of the phone is appropriate, and as a parent, you also need to lead by example.

  • Bklyn2Raleigh Oct 24, 2012

    Not sure if you know this, but there are parental settings you can set. I have set them on my son's ipod touch. you set a passcode to access the parental settings and you can limit what they have access to. For example, only being able to purchase apps that are set for 13 and under, or limit what they can view on Youtube. Still doent do anything for things like email and texts...i have all/any passwords to anything so I can check when I want to. You can also check internet history on the iphone...just to keep tabs on what she is looking up online. I think it is such an important age to know what is going on...and kids do not tell us the half of it. Not so much to be a snoop and punish a child, but to start a discussion about things they may not understand.