Kids and Texting
At what age is it appropriate to give a child a cell phone, and what are the responsibilities and expectations that come along with having one? Do you get the least expensive “pay as you go” plan? Include text? Or go full-blown Internet access? …
My soon-to-be 6th grade son will attend the school that is — literally — in my backyard. I’m not kidding. If you stand in my kitchen and look outside, it’s right there: A two-story brick building, designed to look like a dairy farm. If I were a better golfer, I could hit it with my 7 iron. My husband can probably hit it with his sand wedge; it’s that close.
People have warned me that my child will have “no social life” if he doesn’t have a cell phone with a texting plan because kids these days only communicate via text. I am inclined to pshaw this argument because I truly believe that if someone wants to hang out with my son, that kid will resort to (gasp) calling him on our land-line. Yes, that child might have to talk to an adult for a second or two, but it’s my understanding that I’m kinda okay to talk to, so, until I hear otherwise, I’m not worrying about that.
I’ve also been given the “safety” argument from practically everyone, as if having this device will somehow make him safer. I am fortunate to live in somewhat of an old-fashioned neighborhood where people look out for each others’ kids a little bit. If my son can’t get into our house – which would be really a rare instance because he knows the code to our keypad and has the key to the inside door in his back-pack – he has a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D with regard to which neighbors’ homes he might go. He doesn’t need to call me at the point of the problem. He can try to solve his problem and call me when he gets to his destination and let me know where he is. I try to follow the “safety” argument. I get the idea that if your kid is out riding a bike and she falls or her tire pops or the chain fell off, well . . . I suppose a cell phone would be nice so she could call you and say, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up,” or “My bike is busted,” but assuming there was no real injury – wouldn’t you just want her to get up all by herself, brush herself off, and push the bike home? Because I’m thinking that’s when kids feel a kind of strength, a kind of confidence in handling a problem themselves – without the adult swooping in for the rescue. And if my kid is in THAT bad of shape, somebody, please . . . call an ambulance. Oh, and I feel compelled to remind you — the school is about 75 yards away. Maybe. How much trouble can he get into between here and there?
Currently, my son and I have an understanding. I don’t want to be the crazy mother out there screaming his name at 7 o’clock when it is time to eat dinner, so he tells me where he is going and if he changes location, he asks politely to use the telephone to call me. This system works beautifully. (For now.) I know where he is; he doesn’t need a cell phone. And I don’t have to be attached to my technology either, waiting for a bing or a ping.
My son’s 11th birthday is fast approaching. He has not asked for a cell phone, but he has asked for an iPod Touch. In my mind, this device brings its own set of problems. It’s expensive. It requires Wi-Fi to send text — which is not always available. I worry less about his social life than about his grammar deteriorating with all the stoooopid abbreviations. He is only just beginning to learn the nuances of conventional grammar, and studies suggest texting interferes with all of that. Texting will also open him up to the not-so wonderful world of cyber-bullying. On the other hand, having an iPod Touch would hold all his music and his old first generation Nano has long been maxed out.
It is the only thing he wants for his birthday.
Still, it seems premature. He’s only 11.
I know adults don’t always want to blab with the chatty parents who are hosting the sleepover, that it is easier to text
than to get out of the car and go inside and get the child. Isn’t that the real reason we give our children devices with texting plans? For our convenience? To me, it seems like an inconvenience. I simply don’t want to be that attached to my phone. And what is he really getting: a fancy iPod with the ability to play games? Well, he can do that on the computer. And I can set limits on the computer. Right now, when he’s on for an hour, the computer gives him a warning at the “15 minutes remaining” mark and again at the “one minute remaining” mark and then it logs him off. I don’t have the ability to do that with a portable device. (Do I?) What types of rules do people have in place for these things?
Somebody help me out. What is my problem? Am I making much ado about nothing? What rules have you put in place? What has (or hasn’t) worked for you? What should we expect if we get him one of these gadgets?
At what age is it appropriate to give a child a cell phone, and what are the responsibilities and expectations that come along with having one? Do you get the least expensive “pay as you go” plan? Include text? Or go full-blown Internet access?
What are the consequences (if any) if the phone is lost?