Monday, January 29, 2007

"But Mom...Half the Kids in My Class Have Cell Phones!"

There's a new school bell ringing in my house. Two of my children ('tweens) have started to lobby for cell phones. Here's a rundown of their arguments:

The Whine:
"Almost all my friends have cell phones...."

The It's-for-You-Pitch:
"You can reach me at any time...."

The Safety/Go-for-Mom's-Heart-Pitch:
"I need a cell phone just in case of an emergency...."

My older son received his cell phone as a coming-of-age agreement. About six months after his Bar Mitzvah (age 13), he received a cell phone. He's been very responsible with it and has even used the date book feature to track school assignments.

But I still think 13 is young for a cell phone. But maybe I'm just too old-school. There are even kids in first, second and third grades with their own phones. I'm curious about what other parents do about cell phones and kids.

1) When do you think kids should have their own cell phone?
2) Do you make them pay for it? How do you work the finances?
3) What are your ground rules about usage and responsibility?

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michelle said...

1) When do you think kids should have their own cell phone?
- When they start driving.

2) Do you make them pay for it? How do you work the finances?
- I think if they're going to be such big advocates about it, then they should pay for it.

3) What are your ground rules about usage and responsibility?
- I think it's smart for kids to get a pay as you go phone. Then they can realize how much they are really using the phone and how costly it can be. When they pay for it themselves, they know now to blow all their minutes and to only use it when it is important or an emergency.

~Dawn said...

If I had kids:
1- Age depends, some 18 years are less responsible than 13 yr olds

2- Make them pay for it or atleast half if they don't have a job

3- Pay as you go is the best deal, that way they keep track of the time they have left- budgetting

Lazy Man and Money said...

I believe in starting them out early with a cell phone as long as it has GPS tracking for safety reasons.

That far outweighs a lot of the other considerations in my opinion.

Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...

Michelle: Definitely, when they start driving, a cell phone is a must. And I like the pay-as-you-go plans for kids.

Dawn: You're right. There's really no magic number. Some late-teens can be clueless and careless with phones and other items and some 'tweens are really sharp.

I agree with you: I think kids should try to pay a portion of the bill. And it's not all about the money. The phone can be a teaching tool.

Lazy Man:
Tracking is an option. There are so many issues: frugality vs safety vs independence. It's hard to balance those issues.

bluntmoney said...

1) When do you think kids should have their own cell phone? I don't think there's any "should" about it. But I think high school age would be good. (Although my son has had one since 13 for other reasons.)

2) Do you make them pay for it? How do you work the finances? I would make him pay if it hadn't been me that wanted him to get one. As it is he pays for text messaging.

3) What are your ground rules about usage and responsibility? You lose it, you buy another one. Don't go over your minutes or text messages. Turn it off while in class. Keep the charger away from the pets, and unplug it when not in use.

Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...

Hey Blunt Money:

I like your rules! Especially the one about keeping the charger away from pets.

Our puppy ate the charger for my son's electric scooter. Needless to say, my son has been more careful since then!

Thanks for your feedback!

mapgirl said...

Single Ma has some good strategies on this, having given her kid a phone. (But I think her daughter might be older.)

I think kids should have a phone when they get a car. I remember being stuck by the side of the road without one. It's only because I had a school sticker in the window that someone stopped to let me use theirs. But they have to follow strict rules about not using the phone while moving!

Paying for their phone will help them understand responsible use. You can't let them use it unlimitedly or else you'll have a headache. It's a privilege, not a right.

My cousins in Korea had beepers when they were kids, but they were riding the subway around Seoul by themselves to go to their extra curricular activities. My aunt and uncle would page them and they absolutely had to respond because it was for safety more than anything. Perhaps that's all that younger kids really need. Like who's going to tell a kid they can't use the phone to call their mom?

Lisa said...

I don't have kids, but if I did...

1) I agree 13 is too young. I would say 15 or 16 when they start driving and have a need for it.

2) make them pay at least part of the bill. they will appreciate it more if they are contributing and not just getting it for free.

3) Usage should be in case of emergency or a need to get ahold of me, not for calling friends all day and night. I would opt for pay as you go plan and have them pay a part of the cost so they understand the impact of calling people all the time on the cellphone.

Here via the carnival of family life.

Samantha said...

Since my girls are only 4, we've not had this predicament yet...although they've had toy cell phones. I'm not sure when I think they'll be old enough, maybe not until they get a license and a job? Here via CFL :) Have a great day!!

Holly said...

I'm just glad to know I'm not the only mother of younger kids who is already getting this. My daughter is only 9 and has been asking for two years now. I wish I could tell you how crazy I get teaching a lesson or having an activity with young people who can't put their phone down for two seconds. The rude factor has multiplied ten fold with recent communication methods, and the kids are often clueless about phone etiquette - but when you look around they're not the only ones. How often do people ever say hi to anyone these days? If you're standing in a line with a stranger or two you can bet they'll pick up their cell phone long before they'll say hello to someone standing next to them. Kids even text each other when they're in the same room and we have to be told on the big screen to turn off our cell phones during a movie because people are so inconsiderate. Sad really.

Holly's Corner
Here via the Carnvial of Family Live ;o)

Christine said...

My girls were 13 when they got their cell phones but only because they were no longer within walking distance of school. I encourage the one that's 2 miles away to walk half way home before I pick her up (it's up a very steep grade). With a phone I'm not circling the neighborhood looking for her.
We didn't allow text messaging & they seem to lead full, successful, moderately popular lives (despite occaisional moans to the contrary.) Only one or 2 other children had a little trouble not sending inane messages.