The Middle School Phone Debate

#VZWBuzz Disclosure

Ready or not, middle school time is finally here! It really does seem like yesterday when I took my oldest son to kindergarten. Now, NHL is about a week away from the start of middle school.

*GULP*

While I am nervous, NHL is extremely excited about this fresh start. New school, new teachers, new classes, and hopefully new friends. Then, the other day, I stopped as I opened a new VZWBuzz device to check out. It reminded me that TechyDad and I had never finalized what we were going to do about one last big decision. Would we be sending NHL to sixth grade with a phone?

This decision may seem like a no brainer for many parents, but it is not that simple for us. I know that a lot of families give their children a phone long before sixth grade because of where they live and how their children get to and from school. I get that, but our situation is very different. TechyDad and I take both of the boys to and from school. So while debating this for our family, I came up with some key items that you need to think about before handing over a phone to your child.

Five items to think about if/when you are going through the great phone debate.

The Middle School Phone Debate

1. Rules of the School – Each school has different rules about cell phones coming to school with students. Some school require phones to be turned off and kept in lockers all day. Other schools allow phones to be muted and kept in pockets with the understanding that if they are seen they will be taken. I know that most schools that I have been to do not allow use during classes and if they are found they will be confiscated. My son’s new school requires parents to go to the principal to retrieve phones that are taken away from children. As you can imagine, having an adult leave work to come and get the phone will escalate the infraction to a new level. Kids are certainly less likely to do it again if they are not simply given back at the end of the day.

2. Reasons For and Against – Make a list of reasons why your child should have a cell phone, as well as reasons against it. Many families want kids to be able to get in touch with them quickly and easily when they stay after school for sports and other extracurricular activities. If they are taking a bus or walking home, safety may be a reason for making the purchase. On the flip side, having a phone is a large responsibility for an eleven year old child just starting junior high. Are they ready for this responsibility and all it entails? (More on this later.)

3. Smartphone or Not – Saying that you will buy your child a cell phone is just the beginning. You have to figure out if it will be a regular one or smartphone. Basically you need to determine if you want your son or daughter to be able to simply use the phone to call and text, or also have apps and ability to obtain data. Another concern of mine was the camera feature. Let’s be honest, you do not want kids to be able to take photos of anything and everything. This opens up more conversations about proper use, not sexting, and more. At orientation, we were talking with someone and mentioned our dilemma. At that moment, it dawned on us that it could be worse sending a child to school with a non-smartphone over skipping it completely. Kids can be cruel and something like that could be another item that is used against a child for bullying.

4. Which Plan is Right? – Another decision that parents have to figure out is whether or not to put their child onto their current plan. I know that TechyDad and I were unsure about this. We actually went into a Verizon Wireless store to see what we could do. We could easily add another phone line (regular or smartphone), but would likely need to commit to a two year contract. There were also prepaid options that we could activate a device that we already had and there would be no strings attached if something did not work out well. My best advice for you is to take time to call or stop by a store and go over different plans and see what makes the most sense financially for your needs.

5. Learning  about Responsibility – If you opt to get your child their own phone they will quickly need to add to their responsibility. Suddenly, they will have a device that they must take care of. This means keeping it safe, knowing where it is, using it only when allowed, not letting others use it inappropriate ways, and more. For some children, this may be too much with all of the other changes taking place when starting middle school. If your son or daughter is ready, have additional chats about rules of use. Set clear consequences set for misuse of the phone and what happens if it is lost, stolen, or broken. Go over what your cell phone plan allows. If it is not unlimited texting, be clear that they will be responsible for overage and could have the phone taken away. Smartphone use and understanding how much date has been used is also a lesson that must happen. Set up phones with widgets so they can check and avoid going over set amounts.

So what was our decision? At this moment in time, we are not going to send a phone or smartphone off to sixth grade with NHL. We feel that with all of the changes that added responsibility may be too much for him. We want to focus on NHL getting used to middle school, lockers, changing classes, and everything else that happens in this new academic journey. In addition to this, TechyDad and I feel that IF he needs to get to us he has plenty of ways thanks to his specific circumstances. So, for now, rather than worry about what phone, which plan, and how to protect it – we will focus on middle school. The good news is that if and when we change our mind, we know all of the options that Verizon Wireless has for us to give NHL his first cell phone. Oh and of course we also know about the added security via Verizon Family Base.

Does your child have a phone for school? I would love to know what grade they were in, what type of phone you gave them, and how it went.

It's Me

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive devices like the HTC One Remix to test out and share ways that I use it in my life. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own.

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