1. Remember that everything you send can become public.
Never write a message or forward a photo or text, that you wouldn’t want forwarded to everyone in your school, plus your principal and your parents.
2. Always ask before you forward a text or photo.
Be respectful. How would you feel if someone forwarded an unflattering photo of you?
3. Always ask before you take a photo or video.
And even once someone has given you permission to take a photo, ask before you post it.
4. If someone asks you to send a sexy photo...
...remember that even with Snapchat (which "evaporates" the photo), the picture can be copied and forwarded to others. Anyone could see it -- every kid in the school, your teachers, your parents. It happens all the time to great kids. Just don't send it. And talk to your parents about it.
5. If you receive a sexy photo...
... immediately delete it from your phone, tell your parents, and block the number so you can't receive more. Possession or distribution of sexual pictures of people who are under-age is illegal. If the person who sent it to you asks why, just say "It's illegal. Let's talk instead."
6. Never post your cell phone number
...on Facebook, or broadcast it beyond your friends (because it leaves you open to stalking.)
7. Never broadcast your location
...except in a direct text to specific friends (because it leaves you open to stalking.) Don't use location apps that post your location.
8. Never respond to numbers you don't recognize.
Most will be spam or scams. Some could be more dangerous.
9. If you receive an unsolicited text, that's spam.
Don't click on it. Instead, tell your parents so they can report the problem and have the caller blocked.
10. Don't download apps without your parents' permission.
Some cost money. Some track you. Virtually all will gather info about you and your online habits.
11. Don't spend your baby-sitting money all in one place.
You don’t need more ringtones. Get unlimited texts so you don’t have to worry about budgeting.
12. Don’t wear your cell phone on your body
...and don’t use it if you can use a landline. Cell phones are always looking for a signal, and that means they're sending out waves that you don't want going through your body. Cancer? Maybe. We don't know enough yet. So why not just be cautious?
13. Leave your phone at a charging station in the living room overnight
...so your phone is not in your room at night. It's too tempting to respond to, and sleeping near it is bad for your brain.
14. No cell phones at the dining room table.
This goes for parents, too. Sure, the people on the other end of the phone want you to connect with them this minute. But the dinner table is the time when you disconnect from the world to connect with your family. People who live outside your home can wait a little bit.
15. No cell phones out of your backpack while you're in class.
And of course turn the sound off.
16. Have a life.
Don’t feel obligated to respond to texts right away and don’t text until homework is done, during dinner, or after 9pm.
17. L8R – Later! If you’re driving, turn off your cell phone
...and put it in a bag where you can’t reach it in the back seat. (Make sure you have directions before you start out.) Cars kill people.
18. Nothing replaces FtF.
If a “friend” sends you a mean message, take a deep breath and turn off your phone. Talk to them the next day, Face to Face, about it. Never say anything via text that you wouldn’t say Face to Face.
19. Monitor your phone usage to prevent addiction.
Our brains get a little rush of dopamine every time we interact with our phones, so every text you send or receive, every post or update, feels good. Why is that a problem? Because it can distract us from other things that are important but maybe not so immediately rewarding, like connecting with our families, doing our homework, and just thinking about life. Research shows that people who use social media more often become more unhappy, because it causes them to constantly compare their lives to others, and to worry about whether they are being left out of things their friend group is experiencing.
To prevent addiction, make sure you block out time every day -- like while you have dinner and do homework -- when your phone is off. Also limit the number of times you check social media accounts. If you feel like that's too hard, talk to your parents about it and ask for their help. There are programs that prevent your phone from being used at times you designate.
For additional reading, see:
Cyber Smarts: Keeping Your Child Safe Online
The First Cell Phone: Rules for Responsibility