Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tweens and Technology: Getting your kids a phone

I have done three different revisions of this post in the past month - the changes to each unpublished post reflect our thought processes as we moved from

 "Yes, he should have a phone. What a lovely idea" 
"What kind of phone should he have?"  
and "What should the terms be?" 
"Are we crazy? 
No way he is getting a phone"

We never actually said yes, but nonetheless our poor son has emotional whiplash from the back and forth and our indecision.    In hopes that you and your kiddos can avoid the same craziness, I am posting some the things to think about before going down the phone road.  Maybe you can have a more thorough reflection process than did we.  

Every family has different needs, so everyone is going to think about these issue differently.   There is no right answer here - just what is right for you.  As with my other posts when I write about something that relates to my sons I just naturally use the generic term he, when it relates more to my daughters I use the term she.  No offense intended.

Things to consider

1) Does he need a phone?  If he needs a phone it is a tool for communication. If he does not need it then it is just a cool (expensive) toy.

2) How do you want him to use the phone? Is it an emergency only item? Do you limit the number of texts each day?  Maybe you hope he will talk to you MORE when he has it.  Do you just want him to have it for those times when soccer practice is over early or when he is babysitting or do you want him to use it as his primary phone to chat with friends.

3) Does he need a smart phone? Will he be using it for email, games, music and internet much?  Do you need another source for internet in the house?

4) Do you want him to have a smart phone? Smart phone means games, surfing the internet, photo and video capability.  It is a lot like having a tablet.   Think uploading videos, sending photo texts to friends, clash of clans in the car on the way to soccer practice… It can be a way to escape the craziness and kill boredom, but it can also be away to socially isolate oneself in unhealthy ways too.

5) What are your service options? We had decided on 'no smart phone' and then found out that the smart phone option was actually $10 a month cheeper than getting another 'dumb' phone to share minutes on my plan.  The "watch phone" was on sale and still expensive on the start up, but only $5 a month to add to my plan. So we would pay more to keep him away from the internet stuff.  Ugh.

6) Who pays for the phone? Related, who pays for the service? What happens if he goes over the service plan?  On our situation he had saved enough money to purchase his own and pay for a plan, but we thought for us it would be a better option will be to make a family purchase and let him use it.  If it was necessary for him to have a phone, then we would provide it, because it was a tool.

7) If it is lost or damaged who pays for the replacement or repairs? We thought it reasonable to have him pay for a replacement if he lost it or broke it.  If it was damaged in his care (say his friend knocks over a soda and it gets wet), then we would hold him partially liable and split the repair cost with him.

8) Are you going to limit who has the number? One option is to request he only give out the number to people you pre-approve.  We weren't keen on girl having his number.   He has no interest (yet) in talking and texting with anyone really.  Many of his female peers however, would live on the phone if they could, and they have no qualms about texting boys at 9pm to say "what are you doing?".  We were trying to avoid all that.  So the 'no girls' thing is to help him abide by all our other rules and only use it as necessary.  I also wanted to save him the embarrassment of having to tell a female friend "you have to stop texting me because my mom said so".

8) Are you doing to have him sign a contract? As I mentioned in my post on tweens and technology, it is a good idea to put together some sort of guidelines for usage in writing.  Kids at this age and above are really smart.  They are good at finding loopholes, being sneaky, and justifying behavior as OK even if you have said at some point it was not.  It is also easy to let things slide as you (and they) become more comfortable with the change.  So put it in writing.  Even if that means you have to revisit the contract when he is older and more responsible.  

There are all sorts of contracts and agreements but my husband is an engineer.  They like things that contain words to be simple.  The things we have included in our contract have come from a variety of sources.  I especially want to give a nod to  Housewifespice for her article on teens and technology, Kathryn Whitaker for her post on social media, and to the ladies at Catholic Blogging Network for their discussion on the topic.

Here were the basics of our contract with Anthony:

*My parents will provide me with a phone and basic coverage.*I will not have a smart phone, even if I can afford to purchase and pay for a smart phone plan.*A phone is a tool not a toy. It is to be used to communicate when there are no other options and communication is required.* I will only give my number to guys (no girls) whom I know in real life and only after receiving permission from my parents.* I will stay within the prescribed amount of texting (sending and receiving).*The call log can and will be checked randomly as often as my parents want.*The phone will be charged and plugged in at the counter in the kitchen.*I will only use the phone in the central areas of the house, not in my room.*Device curfew in the house is 8pm.*Phone privileges may be taken at any time.*If the phone is lost, I will be financially responsible for replacing it.*If the phone is broken and I am at fault I will be financially responsible for replacing it. If someone else is at fault for the damage I will be responsible for 50% of the replacement or repair fee.*My parents will have my passwords at all times.

And after all that, we decided


He was devastated for about 15 minutes but he knew we were right.  We walked him through our rationale and he knows that by showing us he has grown in certain areas of responsibility he will gain additional privileges.  Until then he can get by borrowing the phone of a friend or coach.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

I love your questions or comments so feel free to leave me a note before you go. 

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