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

Posted October 23, 2012 8:50 p.m. EDT

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?

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