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FACING YOUR FEARS – 31 STORIES FROM M.O.M.
eBabies + iTeens + YouToo: Kids and Cell Phones – the WHEN and HOW
Before we discuss the WHEN and HOW, though, I want to touch on one WHY that we didn’t discuss last time: emergencies. Many parents give their children cell phones so they can communicate in the event of a crisis.
A few examples of how such proactive planning may not always succeed:
- When we still lived in southern California, we experienced a strong earthquake. At the time, our early teen-aged children were at home together while Daniel and I ran errands. I immediately dialed home, only to hear an annoyingly cheerful recorded voice tell me, “We’re sorry, but all circuits are busy now!” I redialed for the entire twenty minute drive home but never reached our children. So much for communication in the event of a crisis!
- In some school districts, teachers are actually trained to confiscate cell phones–or at least direct students to turn them completely off–during some emergency situations. Some school shooters listen for voices to find their next targets, so students making panicked calls home actually increase their danger. Alerted parents who rush to the school can not help and may actually hinder the special forces responding to the emergency.
- I suspect I’m not the only mother (and wife) who wonders why she bothers to pay a the monthly bill when her children (and husband!) never seem to (a) have their cell phone with them, (b) keep their cell phone charged, (c) have their cell phone turned on, (d) answer when she calls or respond when she texts!
WHEN and HOW
Two weeks ago, I illustrated an especially poor WHY with the story of my daughter’s first cell phone; this story also happens to illustrated a poor WHEN and HOW, as well!
Questions I wish I’d asked about WHEN:
- Are we waiting for a certain age? If so, what age? Why this age?
- Are we waiting for specific signs of maturity? If so, what are they? Are we communicating this to our child(ren)? Why or why not?
- If we have more than one child, do we believe that what we do for the first child we must do the same way for the other(s)? If so, how will this influence our choice of when to provide a cell phone for our first child? If not, how will we communicate our “different-children, different-choices” belief to our children?
Questions I wish I’d asked about HOW:
- Where will we give the phone to our child? At the cell phone store? At home? Elsewhere? Why are we choosing this particular location?
- To whom will the cell phone belong? How will we express this? Reinforce this?
- How will we lay out our expectations regarding our expectations, conditions, and responsibilities for continued use of the cell phone? Verbally? In writing? Will we draw up and sign a contract? How will we follow-up? (Here’s a downloadable Cell Phone Contract and Another Cell Phone Contract)
Some WHEN and HOW Shared Wisdom:
Their first phone will not be a data phone. Allowing kids to have unlimited access to the internet, pictures, etc is not wise. I would want to make sure my children were being responsible with other media first and then have specific ground rules and/or filters on their phones. By the age of 17 I would allow a data phone so his or her first taste of freedom will be while I am still available to monitor it. Angela Mackey (www.RethinkingMyThinking.com)
We had our daughter sign a cell phone usage contract which outlined our rules and conduct expectations….violations of the contract result in the phone being taken away. Erin Bishop (TheWhateverGirls.com)
I’m concerned about the entitlement that parents bestow on their children and the children, in turn, develop that appetite. With cell phones being used for so much more than just texting and holding a conversation (and who does that anymore!?), I think that they too easily become an obsession.The age that our children are allowed to purchase their own phone is 15. There is a little more maturity there than with, say, a 9-13 year old. Kela Fountain Nellums (www.KelaNellums.com)
Much depends on the child and the circumstances. At times an 8 year old might need a phone because of safety issues or if he’s in a single parent family and needs a phone to keep in touch with his mom or dad. In other circumstances it might be good to wait until they cross that ‘right of passage’ age of 12. Give as needed when they are younger. Spend time teaching them what is and what is not permitted usage. Stephanie Shott (www.StephanieShott.com)
The video clip below illustrates the role-reversal that can happen if parents aren’t intentional about making sure it doesn’t. Because my daughter was so much more cell phone savvy than I was, I mistook her technological sophistication for actual maturity. I backed away in insecurity at a time I should have been stepping forward to offer much-needed wisdom and guidance.
We’ve barely scratching the surface! I’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts, ideas, answers, reactions, and further questions in the comments!
Today we’re linked up with The Better Mom: