04-15-2018 06:59 PM
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
Re: Mobile Phones
04-15-2018 10:23 PM
Hi @jdbza thanks for your post sounds like a tricky situation to be in particularly because she has already been given a mobile phone which makes it more difficult to set new boundaries. I'm going to tag some of our members to see what support and advice they can give you around this @taokat @Sister @sunflowermom @Schooner
Re: Mobile Phones
04-15-2018 11:27 PM
Re: Mobile Phones
04-16-2018 01:47 AM
I am torn between taking phone and letting her keep it. I let my daughter keep hers for a couple reasons. One she watches things to help ease her anxiety ( as far as I know) but mostly because if she runs away I can track her. Can you ask for all her passwords as part of allowing her to keep it or also limit time allowed on phone like take it at 7pm until morning? Just some thoughts...remind her its a privilege.
Re: Mobile Phones
04-16-2018 01:47 PM
Hey @jdbza, I'm so glad to hear your niece will be returning to your home after all your struggles.
Do you know where she got the phone? You're right, having a mobile is pretty standard for teens these days, however they have a responsibility that comes with that privilege - the same responsibility that comes with having social media accounts.
I agree with @sunflowermom and think having the passwords for the phone and social media accounts is the go. It was a condition of my daughter having her phone and accounts, and she knew that I would check in at random times.
We sat down and talked about the conditions and consequences, so there were no surprises and she knew exactly what was expected of her and what would happen if she overstepped those boundaries. We compromised on a few things, so she felt part of the decision making.
Maybe you could setup a reward system for your niece, as she's already used the phone inappropriately? You could down grade to a basic phone and she can earn back the privilege of the phone with internet?
It is such a tricky issue and I completely understand your concerns with what you're seeing posted online. It's such a different world to the one we grew up in, and it's so much harder to keep on top of what our teens are exposed to as well as what what they can expose themselves to.
I'll have a look, if my memory serves me well there's an old thread here about phone apps. Let me find it and give you the link.
Re: Mobile Phones
04-16-2018 03:34 PM
Thank you everyone for your feedback we like all your suggestions and will follow them. It’s hard for me because I’m the only one of our friends and family that does not have a mobile phone. My husband has one. I think they are a necessary evil as they can be so destructive to having a face to face ‘normal’ relationships with people. Our 28, 23 and 21 year old live at home and we have a phone box at home which is where devices go when we sit down to have dinner. We are going to see what type of phone she has and what it can and can’t do to see what apps etc that we need to put on it. I like the idea of a text and call only phone and will talk with our service provider to see if they have one that we could get. Personally if it was up to me upon returning home she would no longer have it. After she left our care the first place she stayed at brought her the phone and gave it to her. At that stage we had custody and guardianship of her and they never asked us if it was ok. We didn’t find out she had it until she got suspended from school for showing the sexually explicit pictures to other students. We have a horribly complicated legal situation and are having to get her custody and guardianship orders lodged in the Australian Family Court as they were granted in an overseas court. We also have just found out this morning that we have a court appearance this Thursday where DoCS are going to apply for an ‘interim order with parental consent.' We have so many decisions to make and it feels like DoCS keep changing the goal posts on us. We are trying to keep looking forward and remembering that when she comes home that we will not be doing it alone as we have for the last 3 1/2 years and we are going to have a community of people helping us. It’s been a rough 6 weeks or so and sometimes I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because of her legal situation if the judge does not grant the order (and it’s a real possibility) then on Thursday she will return home and we will be left scrambling to try and get the support we need. It’s a horrid situation however we love her unconditionally and want her to come home. She has spent the last 6 weeks in residential care and as wonderful as they have been with her it’s not a real life. They try their best with the funding and facilities available to them but it’s not the same as living with people you can call family.
Re: Mobile Phones
04-16-2018 10:36 PM
@jdbzaI really feel for you and the situation you are in. Your niece is lucky to have you in her life and to have you love her so much. I pray that the journey ahead will give you courage and strength.
Regarding the mobile phone, it's new territory for many parents and I think most kids are left to their own devices here (no pun intended). There are people now working with schools to build awareness of cyber security and protection strategies for students and parents. I attended a presentation given by an ex-copper at my daughter's school on this. Here's a breakdown of some of the points he put forward for parents to consider:
- Have a no phone access time frame (similar to the basket at meal times except extended) - maybe between 8:30pm and 8:30am?
- Get all the passwords to her accounts and have her sit with you as you monitor and go through what she's posting or commenting on
- Check her browsing history - to monitor what she's looking at across different sites
- Find out what avenues you can both explore to get more knowledge about cyber security - I've included a couple links here but you'll need to check them to see if they are fit for purpose
For some, the above may be somewhat extreme, but I think if she knows she's being monitored she may start to consider what she's posting and why - is it a cry for help?
I wanted to finish off with something I learnt being a parent in this technology age... I hate mobiles and would happily give mine up tomorrow, but the reality is I couldn't get on with what I need to do without them - necessary evil.
Instead of resisting, I started to look at how I could use it to connect with my daughter more. It started with facebook messaging - I found she would tell me things via messenger that she might not tell me face to face. Even when we were in the same house at the same time. We could 'have fun' send links and be girly silly or share things. Her to me and me to her.
Then snap chat came out and although it took me a while, I eventually got it and found that I could connect with her in a whole new way, using video and filters. I even encouraged my fiance to get it so he could communicate and connect with his daughter (she doesn't see him often). Both girls have been responsive to our embrace of the technology (especially when the parents of the other kids are not). They may send a silly photo or use acronyms or new language I have no idea about - but that gives us a talking point and a way in. I am often heard asking my daughter what litt means or bae or all the other stuff they seem to come up with
Given how much pressures and struggles your family has endured this may be an element of fun that could be introduced in conjunction with positive role modelling of phone use. I even heard some families set up group chats - so everyone in the family can communicate with each other.
I'm not an expert by any means ....The point I hope I'm making here is that maybe the technology could be used to open a door of communication and connection. An opportunity for you to see another side of her, that is a real expression of how she's feeling or what she's going through at a given point in time. It's a conversation starter about the posts she's making and the responses she's looking to create...... Perhaps it's a chance for you to get to know her on another level?
For what it's worth I hope that this has helped.