My children are growing up before my eyes. It seems like yesterday they were both toddling around the house. Now I have an almost tween who will be a middle school student in a year. While I hope he is ready for the big change, I am not sure I am. I fear that before I know it NHL will be asking me for his own cell phone.
I have mixed feelings about an eleven year old child having a cell phone and have much I need to consider over the next year. Here are some items that I am thinking about in generic terms.
1. Rules need to be clearly established. – Even before the cell phone is purchased, these need to be written, read, and explained so that everyone understands the expectations of use. Think about when, where, and how the phone may be used. Is texting allowed, data use, and who may they call on their phones. Be sure to set up rules about not using at school during classes, and protocol once out of school and homework needs to be tackled. Think ahead and write down consequences for not following the rules. If these are done ahead of time, emotions are less likely to get in the way.
2. Does a middle schooler really need a cell phone? – This is a tough one. I think each family has to go over their rationale for a purchase. Looking ahead, my reason for possibly getting my son a phone has to do with safety. IF he needs to get to me in an emergency he can grab that phone and get to me, TechyDad, or another family member. Of course, setting up what an emergency means (see number 1 above) will be crucial.
3. Cell phones are a big responsibility, is a child ready for this? – While it is possible to get some regular cell phones, most children have smartphones because there are more options. Smartphones are pricey items. While you may be able to get a decent deal on it with your activation, a replacement will not be the same cost. Children need to be aware of the monetary values associated with the phone. They should have a safe holder for the phone to protect it and a location to store it during the school day where it will not be a distraction.
4. Knowledge of your plan is a powerful tool. – Along with being aware of the value of their phone, children should hear about your cell phone plan coverage. Share your bill with them. Allow them to see the cost of data use and what your carrier allows within your current plan. While they may not understand everything, it will be an eye opening experience that will help with the responsibility.
5. Set up safeguards to protect your child. – There are a lot of ways to monitor your child’s cell phone use. Rather than be sneaky, be upfront. Let your child know that you have items on their phone to let you know about their usage. This will encourage open communication, trust, and let them know you are helping them to make good online and offline decisions.
Verizon Wireless just launched FamilyBase to assist families with this. For $5 a month on your plan (the first month is currently free), parents can see how kids are using their phone, set controls and/or limits on data, calling, and text usage. There is a lot more that you can learn about on the Verizon Wireless page about FamilyBase.
Do your children have cell phones? If they do I would love to know how you have worked out use with them. If your children are too young, what do you think you will do as they get older?
Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Bloggers, I receive different devices to check out in my life. There is no other compensation. I am a long time Verizon customer, and all opinions are my own. I was not asked to blog about FamilyBase, but wanted to share this new feature with my readers since I am currently researching what we may need to do with our children as they enter middle school.