What do you say when your child asks for a cell phone? Many parents have been approached with that question from their children, and it starts at a very young age. Generally they ask not because they actually need a phone but because they see their friends have them, and it’s cool. Well… cool for them, not us parents.
As a teen of the 80’s we didn’t have all that peer pressure of having to have a cell phone or a computer. It was then cool to have a stereo or a television in your room, and maybe a standard plug-in-the-wall phone hooked to our parents’ line. Never ever did you see kids carrying around gadgets; talking and texting 24/7 like they do now.
So when is the right time to give into their wants regarding a cell phone? As a parent of two boys, I too have been approached on numerous occasions by them begging me for cell phones. At first, my initial opinion was “Absolutely not!” However, after the primary shock and utmost negative reaction to the situation subsided I started to think about this possible new found power that I, a mother could hold in her hands.
Of course I do believe that 8 years old is way too young to be responsible for a cell phone but I had a teaching opportunity to present to my two persistent boys. Our family of four has a cell phone that my husband and I share, generally used only for emergencies. During the years of having that cell phone we had acquired upgrades every couple years from our service provider. Instead of throwing the old phones away we’d just toss them in the cupboard to collect dust. We had no idea that they would become such a great tool to teach responsibility.
First we had a discussion with our boys regarding the responsibilities of owning a cell phone and next we handed them each an old disconnected phone. Of course their eyes lit up wide because they thought they were getting their wish, but as soon as they realized that those phones weren’t hooked up to any service a look of confusion waved over their faces. They looked at the phones, looked at each other, then looked at us with questioning glances. I of course spoke up first “No phones until you are 12 years old, and only if you succeed in these following areas.” Let me explain something first. My boys at the time of this plan were only 8 and 10 years old.
The rules were as follows:
1. The phones that they were given were to remain in their possession at all times. (Just like adults carry their phones)
2. They were to present the phones to us any time their father or I had asked them to.
Those were the first two rules which will either prove to me that they are capable or not capable of holding and not losing a phone. I started again by listing 3 more rules:
1. When the boys turned 12 years old they were to hand in their old phone to get access to a new activated one.
2. Their grades had to be acceptable and maintain acceptable to keep the phone.
3. And last, the phones were to be used properly. Any unacceptable use would constitute immediate removal of the phone from their possession until they can demonstrate more maturity.
Those were rules that I called simple and effective reasoning.
Now, here it is, two years later and one of my boys will be turning 12 in April. He still has that old phone in his possession and he intends to turn it in on the day of his birthday. His grades are good, not great, but he is working really hard. (He really wants that phone.)
We have decided that his first phone will be a pay-as-you-go phone. Those can be purchased at any chain store like Wal Mart, Target, Kmart, etc. etc. He will be using his own allowance to pay for his minutes and he will be responsible for taking care of refilling it. This way he will also learn the value of a dollar and just how far it goes. After a year of testing out this new found freedom; if he succeeds we will upgrade him to our plan with a better permanent phone.
So this story goes to show you that you can turn a positive experience into something you may not feel comfortable with in the beginning. For me the long run has turned out to be a win win experience for all involved. I now have a responsible child and he’ll have his cell phone.