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Mobile Phones

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Mobile Phones

Hi … Our 15 yr old niece is more than likely to be returning home after being in care for almost 2 months. While she has been out of our care she was given a mobile phone. She has made some unwise choices while using the phone and has among many things been suspend from school for showing 2 other students at school sexually explicit material that was on her phone. I don’t like mobile phones and my initial response is that she has no need for one so we would remove the phone from her possession. However I know realistically that having a mobile phone is considered to be normal now for someone her age. The phone she has is an Optus prepaid from Woolworths. Can anyone suggest some apps or other things that we can do to help her protect herself to enable her to safetly have a mobile phone? Emotionally she is considerably younger than her age and we have had difficulty while she has not been with us with her inviting herself to be bullied online on Facebook and Instagram by writing things like ‘I hate me, do you hate me?’ Also she has posted on Instagram some extremely graphic photos of self-harm which I found very disturbing to see. With our older children the eldest didn’t get a phone until Year 11 and he paid for it himself. Our daughter 5 years younger than him didn’t get one until her brother left school (they all went to the same school) and our younger son didn’t get one until his sister left school. Their phones were on basic phone call, messaging and photo type of phone with no internet access. We feel out of our depth as to what to do and would love any suggestions that anyone has Smiley Happy

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Mobile Phones

Greetings on a cold wet afternoon. I'm a Mum of a 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter. Our home is relatively stable as my husband and I have been married for 19 years today and we've lived in the same house all that time. However, on the other hand, I've been seriously ill since our daughter was born and that has been very turbulent at times and our kids have had periods of trauma, insecurity and fear. 

It seems from your message that there are two concerns here. One is the phone usage and the other is your niece's well being. With her being in care for two months and now coming to live with you, it sounds like a lot's been going on and that's being reflected in her behaviour. So. on one hand I'd look at ways of helping her feel loved, wanted, special. What are her interests? What is she good at? If there's nothing that stands out, perhaps there's something the family tends to be good at and you can encourage her that direction. I've really had to work hard at this myself at times as my health problems can be quite debilitating.However, I realized that even when you make a small change, you are veering away on a different course and as you keep going, you end up quite a distance from your starting point. These small changes add up over time and before you know it, things are a lot better. 

Unfortunately, this can also work in reverse. 

Our situation with mobile phones for our kids has been quite different to yours. Our daughter had to catch the train to school from Year 5 and needed a phone but it only had basic functionality. Now, they both have phones and use them quite a lot, especially our daughter. 

Our issue with her is that she believes she's entitled to an apple phone and we don't have that kind of money and don't believe in it for kids. She hasn't liked this and has carried on a bit. Told her to get a job. My husband has our phones with Southern phones. 

I hope this helps and I commend you for taking your niece in at this difficult point in her life and taking on these challenges. It takes a village to raise a child, which is something that is much easier said than done. 

Star contributor

Re: Mobile Phones

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Hi @muhammadblibla , 


I think that @Birdwings  has given you some lovely and thoughtful advice. Teaching kids how to navigate social media safely can be a bit of a minefield,and it's definitely something we hear a lot from parents.  If you think she'd be open to it, we do have some resources on our ReachOut Youth page on social media that you could share with her here. It must have been pretty concerning to find out that she was posting photos of self harm on Instagram, can I ask if these were pictures of herself, or other photos? Are you concerned that she may be self-harming at the moment? 


There are some apps and settings that you can use to help to limit what she can access on her phone - the eSafety Commissioner has links to some good tools that you can use here. Will she be paying for the data herself? It might also be a good idea to have a discussion with her about boundaries when she's using her phone  and consequences if she doesn't follow those. Social media can be a really important way for teens to stay in contact with their friends, and I imagine if she's been in care for several months that might be especially important to her, so hopefully these tools can help her to stay safe. 


If you think it would be helpful to have a chat to a professional about how to approach this we do also offer a free one to one parents support service for parents or carers of teens in Australia - you can access that here