When should tweens/ teens get their first cell phone?
Here I thought we had made a decision about when to give our kids cell phones. I thought it was a closed case, at least for the foreseeable future. But I thought wrong!
This is what happened…
Our very responsible and sensible soon-to-be middle schooler (finally) found his tribe of friends last year in 5th grade. They were a group of four boys, with a love for anything related to math, Harry Potter and Rick Riordan books. Collectively they called themselves “the Nerds.”
To join their “group,” you had to answer a number of hard trivia questions about the characters in Harry Potter and Rick Riordan’s books. Their questions must have been above most kids’ level of comprehension, because their group never expanded beyond the four original members. (Or perhaps, no one else applied to join the group, which is the more likely scenario!)
Our oldest son was heart broken when we announced the date of our recent cross-country move. It was painful to watch him prepare to lose touch with the first real friends he’d ever known.
My husband and I talked, discussed, debated and talked some more. We finally agreed to give our 11-year old, our oldest child, his own cell phone. In our case, the pros outweighed the cons – and trust me… We weighed them thoroughly.
We had an old cell phone with a cracked screen laying around in a drawer. We spent $60, got the screen fixed and our 11 year old felt like a million bucks.
The parenting book:
Before we jumped into this next phase of parenting, I consulted various parenting books and websites to find the best resources for a family about to embark upon the dreaded “a tween with a cell phone” journey.
I found “Screen Time Sanity,” a quick and easy-to-digest reference book for parents in need of sensible screen time guidance and advice. The book doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover. You can jump to the sections that pertain to your current situation and then otherwise keep it handy on your nightstand. However, since we have four boys with ages spanning from 4 to 11, it seemed like every chapter “spoke to me.”
In the back of the book, there’s a password to an online website with wonderful resources:
- Cell Phone Contract (which we used)
- Social Media Contract, (we aren’t ready to give our son access to social media, but we will use this contract, once we do allow him to use it)
- Several age-appropriate Tech Talk Conversation starters for young kids through teens
- Lots of other great parenting tools to help you navigate the “tech” phase!
One of my (many) concerns about giving our son a smart phone was how to prevent cell-phone addiction. However, modeling the behavior you want to see in your kid is one of the strongest and most impactful messages you can send as a parent.
Before we sat down with our son to go over our family’s cell phone rules, I reminded myself that it’s easier to start off strict and then ease up as the kids get older and earn our trust, instead of starting off with minimal rules and having to get tough after they screw up and break one of the family’s technology rules.
Topics to discuss with your child BEFORE giving them a cell phone:
- A cell phone is a privilege, not a right.
- Everything you write online or send via email/ text is kept online FOREVER – even if you and the other party delete the message/ picture.
- The more you show responsibility with this phone, the more trust you will receive. Trust is EARNED.
- We want you to come to us immediately if you experience any type of cyber-bullying, regardless of whether it is done towards you or one of your friends.
- Remember we can and will read your texts and check your activity on a daily basis.
- Don’t say or do anything you know isn’t kind or is against our cell phone rules.
- Review your family’s internet rules, just for good measure. Here are our family’s internet rules – I use a great analogy the kids really understood.
Our family’s cell phone rules:
- Sign the Cellphone Contract.
- You can only call and text on the phone.
- You will not have any social media accounts.
- You will not download any apps on the phone without our permission.
- Cell phones do not belong at the dinner table or during family time.
- We will have access to all your accounts and apps, including social media (if/ when you get them). You will not change your log in information without sharing it with us.
- We will follow ALL your social media accounts if/ when you get social media.
- Answer phone calls and text messages immediately from your parents.
- The GPS function must remain on when you are outside of the home.
- The cell phone will left in the common area after bed time.
- We will set parental controls on the device and we WILL monitor your usage.
- Keep track of your data usage, you will be responsible for the bill if you go over the limit.
- You will not text something you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
- You will not text or call someone you don’t know in person.
- You may only call or text the preprogramed numbers in your phone.
- Mom or dad will add phone numbers in your phone if needed.
- Do not use the phone during school hours, sports practices or games, unless you need to contact us.
- Remember that online communication is the same as opening our front door and letting someone in our home, don’t allow strangers in!
- Don’t take or send dick or butt pics, they are never cool, appreciated or appropriate – EVER.
- Don’t ask others to take or send pictures of any body part other than their own face – EVER.
- IF someone asks you NOT to tell your parents something – immediately tell us (or another trusted adult), you will NEVER be in trouble.
- If you see a friend send troubling messages or pictures, please tell a trusted adult immediately.
- Don’t engage in drama or arguments over email or texts. If you have a disagreement with a friend, speak with them face to face. We are always happy to listen to you and give advice (if you want it) on how to handle awkward and sticky situations.
- Remember, there’s no “un-send” button. Consider each and every message carefully before you hit “send.”
- You break it or lose it, you pay for it – with your own money.
- Don’t give us a reason to take your phone away.
- When in doubt, ask us first – about ANYTHING!
What would you add to this list of cell phone rules for your tween or teen?
*** Check out the way I explained internet safety to our kids years ago – it worked, we still use this clever analogy today. ***