Tweens and Cell Phones: An unavoidable combination

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Tweens and cell phones can give you added responsibilities and headaches, on their own or together. If my daughter read this, she would correct me and say, “Teens and cell phones, mom.” She is right.  She is 13 years old and thankfully, a happy teen.  I am not happy, but that is for another story.  My point is that we, as her parents, gave her a cell phone when she was 11 years old.  After all, we had done our research and talked to other parents whose kids had cell phones and we felt confident about this decision. 

a tween and her phone

It was a good idea for several reasons.  We wanted to check in with her at any time and vice versa.  She sometimes walked to and from school by herself.  She came home from school at different times because of her participation in several after school activities.  Also, her teachers began to use Remind Me, an app for teachers to text students (and parents) about quizzes, homework, projects, and general notices.

My daughter got a phone in January 2015.  It was a spare iPhone 4 we had at home, since I upgraded my phone the year before.  The connection fee was $40 and monthly charge was $20.  Access to the Internet required a wi-fi connection.

SAY YES TO THE CELL PHONE

Phone in her hand, we talked to her about the responsibilities that came with using a cell phone.  She yessed us back. 

Us: “Take care of your phone, it’s fragile”

Her: “Yes”

Us: “We will approve every app before it is downloaded to your phone ”

Her: “Yes”

Us: “Do no leave a voicemail greeting on your phone”

Her: “Yes”

Us: “Do not answer calls from phone numbers you do not know”

Her: “Yes”

Us: “No Facebook”

Her: “Ok. Yes.”

Almost two years later, she’s stuck to these guidelines.  We argue at times over her cell phone being a distraction with her schoolwork.  As a result, we implement new phone and text messaging guidelines as we go along.  Texting does not replace talking, sending mean or threatening texts is prohibited, it is rude to text in front of someone when they are speaking to you.  We review privacy issues such as not giving out her phone number or including too much information on her descriptions for Instagram or related apps. we also discuss “Stranger Danger” and how it applies to this technology. 

PARENTS HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES TOO!

My daughter is not the only one with additional responsibilities.  As her parent, I have a few as well.  I have her username and passwords to her phone and apps.  I log into her apps regularly such as SnapChat and Instagram to see her “friends” and/or to see who wants to be friends with her.  If I see posts that I don’t like, I unfriend or delete them.  Usually, these posts come from users whose names are, for example, “I love puppies,” or “color faves,” and if they advertise weight loss products, post sexual images, or anything that I deem inappropriate, I delete it.  Do I tell my daughter what I did? No. Why? Because I am the parent and frankly, with over 500 users she follows on Instagram, I don’t think she even realizes who is missing.

I review phone calls.  99 percent of the time, calls are from family or friends.  Once in while random numbers pop up, and we block those numbers.  Clouds and parental settings are great too.  By way of the Cloud, I receive copies of pictures she takes using her phone on my laptop or cell.  Parental setting options through wireless providers  allows parents to program their child’s phone to control when to make or receive a call.

FAMILY DECISION

Giving tweens cell phones can be a tough.  Nowadays parents are facing so many challenges that dealing with a decision that can be financially and socially problematic is daunting.  Furthermore, parents are not just focusing on the use of a phone, but also on all of the components that come will a cell phone – text messaging, internet, apps, face time, etc.  As parents, we want to protect our children from all of the bad stuff that exists out on the web which can potentially harm our children using any of these methods.  At the same time, we want them to have a phone in case there is an emergency and for peace of mind.  Each decision is different and compromise is needed.  Hopefully, our experience will help you make a decision that is best for you and your family.

tweens and cell phones