Dear Boo and Lulu

Daily musings for my daughters or anyone interested

When are kids ready for a cell phone?

on October 19, 2012

Boo’s iPhone

My Boo started asking me and her Dad for a cell phone when she was 8; she’s 11 now.  Of course, we knew she wasn’t ready for a cell phone then.  We told her that she can have a phone when she starts middle school/6th grade and starts going to a different school than her younger sister.  Picking up two kids from two different schools at two different times would be much easier if at least one of them had a cell phone.  Right around the time she turned 10, the pleas for a cell phone became more and more rampant; then we’d have to remind her that middle school was only a year and half away.  We also started talking to her about the responsibility of having her own phone..wondering if all she was hearing was “wah wah wah wah wah” (insert adult voices portrayed on Charlie Brown here).

When she was about to turn 11, the Spring before she started middle school, AT&T was running a special on the iPhone 3S for 99 cents so we thought it would be a good time to get her the phone as a birthday present and also to prepare her for when she starts middle school  We really did not take this big step for granted.  Most of my family members have had nightmare stories about exorbitant cell phone bills because their kids were not properly prepped for the responsibility of having one.

Needless to say, she was ecstatic when she got her new phone.  She wasn’t expecting it until the summer before school started so she was thrilled.  Before we handed her the phone, we sat her down with a set of rules (see list below), and made sure she understood the consequence of not following any of the rules, which is that the phone would get taken away for any number of days depending on the severity of her actions.  We also explained the cost of owning a phone and that it’s not something to take for granted.

Rules for Boo’s use of her phone:

  • Phone must be put away after getting home from school and can’t be used until all homework and chores are done
  • This one seems funny but it had to be said:  no phone in the bathroom
  • No use of anything that required use of data plan except when Wi-Fi is available (mostly at home)
  • No downloading of Apps or media (songs, movies, etc.) without parents’ consent
  • No phone (or any other screens) during meal times; phone must be silenced
  • Do NOT respond to or forward Spam text messages; delete immediately – this rule was added later after she forwarded us a text message about winning a prize from Best Buy

She understood the rules and we’ve had very minor problems with non-compliance so it’s worked out really well.  I think the time we took to start prepping her for owning a phone helped her understand the importance of being responsible.  This is not going to be isolated to a cell phone; someday her questions will turn to “when can I have a car”, or “when can I start dating” (aaaahhhh!) so we’re setting the stage for much more serious life lessons and also for our youngest who at 8 has of course, started asking when she can have a phone.

It’s amazing that the kids of this generation will never know a time when technology is not pervasive in their lives.  But I supposed we can’t stop progress.  I mean, I thought I was so cool when I got my first Walkman.  And as of late, I’m relieved that she has a cell phone because of the recent ghastly abduction and murder of a 10 year old girl in a suburb outside of Denver, only about 50 miles north of us.  I don’t allow my kids to walk to and from school, even though the school is only about two blocks from  us and this recent tragedy is an affirmation of why.

When my kids become parents themselves and their kids start asking questions like “when can I have my own hover board”, I hope they’re reminded of the many converations we’ve had (and will continue to have) about responsibility.

What do you think? When should kids have a cell phone?

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