When should our kids get cell phones

As a mother of four teenagers, with a nine year old trailing right behind, you wouldn’t believe the number of times I get asked my opinion about when children should get cell phones.

I’ve quickly realized that question needs to go in the hot button territory right next to money, politics, nursing vs. bottle and home school vs public school choice because there is no easy answer to this question.

Quite  frankly, the majority of you will not hear your children complain, “I’m the last high schooler alive who does not have a cell phone,” yet that is exactly where we land in the decision making process. We don’t consider a cell phone plan until they drive, and then we  pay for a basic plan IF they have earned the privilege. Any plan beyond that, and it’s out of their own pocket.

I know that is shocking for many, and remember, this is just where our family lands. Every one has completely different situations, but when our third grader mentions that “all her friends” are getting cell phones,  honestly, I just can’t fathom the reason for that.

This is a critical decision making process and I ask you to really ponder. Look at what’s best for your family. Ask if there’s a true need for it, and don’t  base your outcome on those around you or the guilt trip from your kids. (Read the 7 Highly Effective Ways to Raise Lazy and Entitled Children)

It’s too important of a decision.

When implementing any decision in the parenting process, not only do I determine a list of pros/cons, but I also look at each individual child’s personality and attitude. Personally, I do not parent with an “all things are treated equally and all decisions are exactly the same for each child” mentality.

One may think that is  not “fair,” and yes, our children have heard the “life is not fair” speech more than they’d like to, but privileges are earned, and a cell phone is a privilege, not a need (with a few limited exceptions, of course).

Somehow society now leans towards the expectation that cell phones or any wifi based devise are a “right,” and that we are all entitled to this technology, but I couldn’t disagree more.

Right now, we have two younger teenagers that struggle in limiting their designated online time.

My cell phone decision stems from the fact. If we are doing battle over a shared family computer now, one which I have to log in for them, then that temptation will only intensify if they have their own cell phone.

This decision may change if they learn to steward well the time they have now, and that means that there is no magic number for when either of them will get one.

Personally, I’ve only had a cell phone for under four years, and up until a few months ago, I only had a prepaid cell phone. It met my need of convenience and safety, which are the two huge bullet points in the Pro cell phone column for our children.

Now, please note, since we home school (and our older ones only take a few classes in public school), postponing a cell phone is a much easier option for us. If we were in a school environment all week  most likely we would purchase a shared, very limited prepaid “emergency plan” for after school activities because keeping up with the “when and where” of children is so much easier with a phone. Even now, there’s been too many times when I’ve thought, “This would be so much easier if they just had a phone.”

Technology is amazing and honestly, while my new upgraded phone has made life so much more convenient, it also comes with a barrage of choices and time temptations. If adults struggle to balance their time with technology, imagine the balancing act it is for our youth.

With the onset of technology, many have lost the ability to communicate well.

Have you spent time with a large high school group lately?

As a generalization of course, it’s hard to carry on an in-depth conversation with teens because many aren’t fully present. They are plugged in and distracted. With unlimited texting and no parental controls on wifi , dangerous avenues on the internet have opened up a loss of innocence to our youth. They are grappling with on-line peer pressure like never before and don’t have the maturity to handle the consequences. As a parent, I am quite passionate about all these factors, but as I write, it’s not really the phone that is the issue, it’s attempting to help our children be responsible in their use of any kind of online internet based avenues, even beginning with an ipod that has texting capabilities

If you are determining the right cell phone or cell phone plan for your child, please, please be aware of what they are doing online.

Search out plans with parental control features and limit the hours they can text. They need to be  accountable as they learn to balance this technology. I highly recommend prepaid phone packages. They offer great service with no contract. Make sure that you KNOW what they are viewing. Statistically, 75% of boys view porn online by the time they are 12. whether accidentally or  not, be AWARE! DO not be naive.

A few suggestions that we implemented:

Consider having them “check in” their phone or ipod when they go to sleep.

Before they receive their first phone or internet based devise, determine and write up the rules of use. Have parent and child sign a “Covenant” of what has been agreed upon.  That way, there can never be a doubt later on. Set boundaries, and follow through on the agreed upon consequences.

Help them learn to be responsible with their phone.  Don’t allow it to become their master, and if you see if an addition to technology is developing, intervene.

Yes, I could go on and on.

Can you tell that I am a mother of teens who have experienced some of the downsides of technology?

Again, each family is different, just as each child will handle this new responsibility in varying manners. As a parent, consider all the options, and decide what is in the best interest of your child.

If you are making this decision, then your teen driving is probably close behind. I tackled Teen Driving, Their Safety and Paying for it all here.

I’d love to hear how you determine at what age to purchase a cell phone for your kids or some of the rules you’ve set in place.

If this interested you, don’t miss my incredibly easy parenting tips for raising kids. Who says parenting is hard? 😉