I remember the day my eldest son (1o years old at the time) came home from school and announced he NEEDED a cellphone. He argued that all the kids in his class owned a cellphone and he was the only one without one. The nail in the coffin was his best friend just got one too. I’m not one to follow parenting trends on when things are acceptable for my children, but this one made me pause. I believe that age isn’t as important a kid’s maturity level. Things like their ability to follow rules, their sense of responsibility and their need to for a cellphone are bigger factors in the decision.
A cellphone is a BIG DEAL. It’s not a house key that can be easily replaced when lost or a debit card that can be cancelled, but rather you are handing them a communication device that allows them to speak to the world and even WORSE, allows the world to see them. A text, picture or video may seem like a harmless joke but once on the internet it is ALWAYS there. Friends, family and future bosses have access to this information and it can make or break job interview or life decision. Parents need to consider why they believe their child needs a cellphone and if they are really responsible and respectful enough to handle one.
The decision was finally made for me when my son found himself in a compromising situation.
My family consists of two working parents and three children between the ages 11 and 6. In order to minimize childcare, we work opposite shifts to ensure a parent is home for the children most of the time. Occasionally, we elicit the help from friends and family. This past summer, my oldest child had set up a play date with a friend in the beaches. Like passing ships, neither Mom and Dad were able to drop him off so a family friend offered. DS11 made the arrangements ,the family friend dropped him off and it turned out nobody was home. My son had misunderstood his friend on what time he should arrive and ended up sitting on their front steps for 45 minutes alone. He was in an area of town he wasn’t familiar with, there was no telephones near by and he had no way to call for help. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending and his friend arrive home, but the alternative is terrifying.
Having a cellphone would have greatly benefited my son in this situation. He could have called one of his parents, followed up with his friend or the worst case scenario called for help. I didn’t like that I had placed my son in this helpless situation. I’m sure it will never happen again, but I want to arm my children with a way to contact me when ever they need.
After flip flopping sides and agonizing over this decision for hours, we decided that although we felt our children didn’t require their own cellphones at the present time, they did need to be able to reach us when ever they wanted. With the disappearance of phone booths, the only viable option is a cellphone. Roger’s has a great program up to assist with easing kids into the cellphone process. We opted to take the Pay as You Go. It gave us the flexibility to bring our own phone or buy a new one and change the plan based on our needs. We loved that we would only get what we paid for and there would be no surprise bills or hidden charges. With kids, this was important because it set strict boundaries for our kids, but allowed us to top it up if we felt it was needed.
As we introduce our children to the world of cellphones, we want to make it clear that it is primarily a communication device. Smartphones are loaded with games and apps that turn the phone into tablet and we didn’t want our children to focus on this. I know eventually they will crave a phone that uses facebook, snapchat and all of those other apps, but for now, I want them to respect the phone. As a result, we purchased Roger’s s Text and Talk program which allows you to make phone calls or unlimited text, picture and video messaging.