Kids & Cellphones | PARENTING

A teen & tween in their natural habitat.

I have mixed feelings about kids having cellphones. My reasoning is pretty simple: most adults can not handle the responsibility, I am not sure why we think kids can handle it.

When I tell people my kids, even my oldest at 13, does not have a cellphone I am met with a confused look. The kind of look that screams how does your kid not have a cellphone. The look is similar to that if I suddenly grew a second head out of my neck. My kid is never somewhere where I cannot get a hold of him, so why does he need a phone. Both kids have ipods and have the ability to message me when needed and do all the social media stuff kids do these days.

I was talking to my parents the other day. I was telling them since The Boy is graduating middle school and entering the high school I think it is time he have a phone. He will be wanting more freedom and responsibility and I want him to be able to reach us if he needs it.

A couple of years ago to combat this issue we got the kids a flip phone to share. Emergencies only. This year my son protested taking it with him when he left the house and almost never used it to call my husband like he was supposed to get to picked up after practice. Instead I would get a text, or a phone call from an unknown number which usually belonged to one of his friends saying that practice was over.

It is time. But handing over open internet access to him is still scary.

As it is now both kids have pretty strict rules regarding their devices and the internet.

  • I use Apple’s screentime feature to manage their (hence the name) screen time. Before that as a built in feature in Apple products I used a standalone service that I happily paid for for close two years.
  • We have time restrictions on the WiFi which turn off and on automatically preventing them from being connected all day and all night.
  • Devices have to be charged in a common area of the home.
  • I have to have all passwords to devices and have my fingerprint stored in any device that has that capability.
  • I am on any social media site they are on; friended and they are not allowed to block me.
  • Random spot checks of devices are to be expected.

I am aware of house strange and overbearing these rules sound but the kids are aware that in order to have the luxury of these devices these are the the rules. There are rarely any fights at the end of the night to get them to turn their devices in, or shut down the video game console. It is definitely a slower process some nights but there are no kick-down screaming fights like I hear happen in other homes. My kids know mom is crazy and will just throw the shit in the garbage.

In the midst of trying to convince my husband that The Boy is at a time where he needs a phone Verizon released a “Just Kids” plan. (I am not going to go into all the details, but here is the link to the page on Verizon’s website) I was telling my parents about this plan. How I think it will be a good transition from ipod to phone and still gives us full control over what he’s doing and who he’s talking to…

My mother said I needed to give him privacy.

My father said when he was his age he was traveling the NYC subway system by himself.

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When parents turn into grandparents people.

As I write this I am 35 years old, and my sister is within a few weeks of her 30th birthday and my mother STILL keeps pretty regular tabs on us. And my father… well, he is currently a nervous wreck about said almost 30-year old daughter going to Chicago for her birthday with her HUSBAND. He also worried when she took a job in NYC right after college. And when her and her HUSBAND traveled to Bali for their HONEYMOON.

But yes, give the grandson privacy. Give him freedom.

I then asked them what is the difference between what I am trying to do and what they did to me when I was my son’s age. When they used to lock the door to the computer room to prevent me from getting online at all hours of the night.

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My mother very proudly announced that they did that because I would get up in the middle of the night and go use the computer.

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I saw the light bulb flash and that was the end of the conversation. Same tactics, different decades.

I like being able to get a hold of my kid when I need to get a hold of him, and vice versa. Everything else that goes along with a cellphone I can do without. (Except the camera, I have way too many pictures of my dog now that the kids refuse to let me take their picture most days)

Think of all the bad habits you have with your cellphone. And you are (hopefully) an adult. We can’t be without these devices. So much so that we take them into the bathrooms with us and use them while we’re driving. We are so tethered to these devices that the slightest noise or flash we feel like we instantly have to check them. For years I would be in one room and my phone in the other and it would go off; the kids would rush to tell me that my phone went off. And I would politely acknowledge their statement and then say it’s okay, if it’s an emergency whoever it is will call the house. Yes, we still have a house phone.

We’d like to think that kids only pick up our good habits but they pick up our bad ones also. If our kids see us constantly on our phones; unable to wait in the grocery store line without scrolling… that’s what they will do when they are met with a moment with idle hands. If our kids see us texting while driving, what do we think they will do when they are able to drive.

If as adult we could have decent cellphone skills it would not be such an issue for kids to have them. When I listened to a book recently that explained how Silicon Valley’s top tech executives don’t allow their kids to have the technology they are designing you know there is a problem with these devices.

As a parent, all I can do is hopefully instill in them proper etiquette for using these devices. To teach them that a cellphone (among other things) is a privilege, not a right. That life online does not replace real life connections. That “likes” on a screen are not the same as an actual pat on the back. And that “fans” do not equate to true friends.

JS.

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