The last thing any parent wants is a teenager with a shiny new driver’s licence, who thinks it’s OK to text and drive because they have watched you do it for years

Smart phones and other cellular connected devices have transformed how we communicate, becoming essential tools in everyday life.

Instilling good manners in children (and practicing them ourselves) is a vital part of life and in the digital age; teaching children how to behave online has become just as important as teaching them how to behave in person and in public.

“Our mobile devices allow us so many avenues to communicate with each other. But the manner in which we do so can vary from platform to platform,” says Michelle Beetar, Cell C Chief Customer Experience Officer. “It’s important to instil in our children and ourselves basic politeness and etiquette, however we choose to communicate.”

Good conduct shouldn’t be put on hold when using a phone, tablet or computer. So, if you are a parent and feel your children need a little guidance, the following tips may be useful:

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1. Out of sight, out of mind

There are certain times when putting your phone on silent is preferable – such as at any formal or family gathering (weddings, funerals, social engagements). Cell phones have become so integrated in our daily lives, that we forget they are an interruption. Nobody will thank you for talking or texting in a lecture hall or cinema. As is the case with any other social behaviour, it’s our job to make sure our children are aware of when it’s inappropriate to use a cell phone.

2. Public noise alert

Your child may love playing audio on a game or video in public, but not everyone around them will agree! We can’t blame parents for eventually becoming immune to their children’s noise, but it’s a good idea to make headphones compulsory when you’re out in public. In this way you teach your children to be aware of their public cell phone behaviour at all times. An added bonus is that headphones enhance the listening experience.

3. Monitor screen time

Develop a habit of monitoring your children’s screen time. Some phones come with a built-in monitor, or you can download one of several apps that monitor screen time on a daily or weekly basis. Some will even break this down to show how much time is spent on which specific apps.

If we’re teaching our children that their online behaviour is the same as public behaviour, we need to make sure they understand the importance of protecting themselves online

Very few of us, especially children, are aware of how much time we spend staring at our phone screen. Monitoring screen time is a good way to help children (and adults!) develop a healthier balance between time spent interacting with their phone and real-life interaction with family and friends.

4. Think before you type

Just as we teach our children ‘Don’t say that to other people’ or ‘Don’t be rude’, we have to teach them that the same applies to what you type on your phone. Whether it’s a text message or a post on social media, what you type on your phone is the same as saying it to someone in person or shouting it out in public.

It’s crucial to make youngsters aware of this, because there is no longer a distinction between online and real-life behaviour. And this counts for all types of messaging: just because you think a meme is funny, doesn’t mean everyone will. It’s a tricky road to navigate, but we have to teach them that your online identity affects the way others perceive you on a daily basis.

5. Make sure your cell phone is protected

If we teach our children that their online behaviour is the same as public behaviour, we need to make sure they understand the importance of protecting themselves online. The simple act of making sure your phone is password protected and installing a trusted malware app will help make sure nobody else can access your social media accounts, or any other personal information, via your phone.

In many ways, teaching our children about online and cell phone safety should be as ingrained as teaching them how to cross a road safely – it’s simply part of being a parent in a digital age.

6. Don’t text and drive

This one really should go without saying by now, but it’s always worth repeating. The best way to ensure your children will never think it’s OK to ‘send just one text’ while driving is to simply never do it yourself – and to make sure they are aware of just how high the risks are.

The last thing any parent wants is a teenager with a shiny new driver’s licence, who thinks it’s OK to text and drive because they have watched you do it for years.