We gave her a cell phone when she was 11 years old. After all, we had done our research and talked to other parents whose kids had cell phones, and we felt confident about this decision.
It was a good idea for several reasons. We wanted to check in with her at any time and vice versa. She sometimes walked to and from school by herself. She came home from school at different times because she participated in several after-school activities. Also, her teachers began to use Remind, an app for teachers to text students (and parents) about quizzes, homework, projects, and general notices.
My daughter got a phone in January. We had a spare iPhone 4 at home since I upgraded my phone. The connection fee was $40, and the monthly charge was $20. Access to the Internet required a wi-fi connection.
Say Yes to the Cell Phone
Phone in her hand, we talked to her about the responsibilities of using a cell phone. She yessed us back.
Us: “Take care of your phone. It’s fragile.”
Us: “We will approve every app before it is downloaded to your phone.”
Us: “Do not leave a voicemail greeting on your phone.”
Us: “Do not answer calls from phone numbers you do not know.”
Us: “No Facebook.”
Her: “Ok. Yes.”
Almost two years later, she’s stuck to these guidelines. We argue over her cell phone being a distraction from her schoolwork. As a result, we implement new phone and text messaging guidelines as we go along. Texting does not replace talking, sending mean or threatening texts is prohibited, it is rude to text in front of someone when they are speaking to you. We review privacy issues such as not giving out her phone number or including too much information on her descriptions for Instagram or related apps. We also discuss “Stranger Danger” and how it applies to this technology.
Parents Have Responsibilities Too
My daughter is not the only one with additional responsibilities. As her parent, I have a few as well. I have her username and passwords to her phone and apps. I log into her apps regularly, such as SnapChat and Instagram, to see her “friends” and see who wants to be friends with her. If I see posts that I don’t like, I unfriend or delete them. Usually, these posts come from users whose names are, for example, “I love puppies” or “color faves.” If they advertise weight-loss products, post sexual images, or anything I deem inappropriate, I delete it.
Do I tell my daughter what I did? No. Why? Because I am the parent, and frankly, with over 500 users she follows on Instagram, I don’t think she even realizes who is missing.
I review phone calls. Ninety-nine percent of the time, calls are from family or friends. Random numbers pop up once in a while, and we block those numbers. Clouds and parental settings are great too. By way of the Cloud, I receive copies of pictures she takes using her phone on my laptop or cell. Parental setting options through wireless providers allow parents to program their child’s phone to control when to make or receive a call.
It’s a Family Decision
Giving tweens cell phones can be a tough decision. Nowadays, parents are facing so many challenges that dealing with a decision that can be financially and socially problematic is daunting. Furthermore, parents are not just focusing on the use of a phone, but also on all of the components that come will a cell phone – text messaging, internet, apps, FaceTime, etc.
As parents, we want to protect our children from all of the bad stuff that exists out on the web, which can potentially harm our children using any of these methods. At the same time, we want them to have a phone if there is an emergency and for peace of mind. Each decision is different, and compromise is needed. Hopefully, our experience will help you decide what is best for you and your family.