My second child desperately wants a cell phone for Christmas.
He’s ten. And he’s the most persuasive person I have ever met.
He likes to play with my cell phone, typing out text messages to me without actually sending them. Instead, he just walks over to me and holds the phone up to my face. It reads, "What are we having for dinner?"
Dude. I’m standing right here. Please feel free to address me with the remarkable technological achievement called YOUR VOCAL CORDS.
The other day he observed aloud to me that "you know, I bet the best way I could convince you that I can handle a cell phone is to be really responsible about other stuff." Then he proceeded to set the table, finish his homework, put away some laundry and help his sister with a project, all without being asked.
I thanked him heartily. (And then I wondered how long I can milk this thing for all it’s worth.)
Hubs and I have been talking about the kids-with-cell-phones issue a lot lately, and he’s not a big fan of the idea. He’s worried about the phone getting lost or over-used, and of course, he doesn’t want to receive any outlandish bills. I agree.
But I can also see a few positives about letting the two older kids have phones. I like the idea of the boys having access to a phone when they’re away from me, for security reasons. We could always buy a pre-paid plan, I’ve reasoned, so there would be no surprise bills. We could find a bare-bones, inexpensive phone without Internet access. The kids could help re-stock the minutes with their allowance.
Most of all, I like the idea of the boys having some hands-on experience setting cell phone limits before they hit the teen years. Managing a cell phone responsibly is a learned skill. Learned skills require practice.
That brings me back to the question I keep mulling over in my head: how young is too young to begin learning this skill? It’s that shaky parenting tightrope I walk daily (on many more issues than just this one)–I want to give my kids enough freedom that they’re having contstant opportunites to grow and mature, but I want to do it at a common-sense, cautious pace.
So I thought I’d throw this dilemma out to all of you, for (hopefully) some hearty discussion. Specifically, at what age did you (or will you) give your kids their first cell phone? What kinds of limits do you put in place to help them manage it responsibly? How much of the financial burden are they responsible for? Have you come up with any other creative ideas for managing this issue?
I’m all ears.