Sharing 5 important conversations to have before you share a cell phone with your child in this post sponsored by Republic Wireless; which is a new affordable, smarter smartphone service we’ve been using all summer!
With my daughter headed into sixth grade this year (like woah, really?!), the time has come to “go there” with a conversation about cell phones. I’ve been the mama that’s held off for a long time… and really, this conversation actually started quite awhile ago as just about all of her friends have had phones for some time now. While that isn’t a reason in itself to go the route of “cell phones for everyone!”, it does bring up a good starting off point. Lately, we’ve had more experiences where my daughter has been away from us and we were wanting a way to communicate with her when separated, whether in the store just feet from us or while she was on a month long trip up north!
Here’s the thing, I think it’s super important to be connected with your kids and to have a strong pulse on even the why behind the ask. For us in our home, the time came earlier than I had planned… but nevertheless, it was time.
There are a lot of preconceived notions and misconceptions about the right age to not only let your child have a cell phone, but also how to discuss all things cell phone related, like apps and social media before the phone is even in hand. The answer is different for every family, and so today we’re covering some of the conversation that will determine if the time is right for you and yours.
1. Is a phone really needed?
I know with our kids, phones are most definitely wanted, but determining if it’s needed is the key here. You’ll find more clarity by answering questions like… Are they spending time away from you where you may need to get ahold of them? Is she in activities that have her out for long periods of time, or needing to call you for a ride? Is your kiddo sleeping over at friend’s houses, walking places alone, staying home alone, or babysitting? Our daughter spent a month up north with her grandparents recently and though we could reach her through them, she also visited some friends and other family members and there wasn’t always a phone handy or service available… this was our first time thinking that maybe, just maybe, a phone that she could keep with her would be helpful.
Because adding a phone to the family is also an additional cost (and I don’t know about you, but as a family of SIX, we take that into the budget consideration carefully), it’s important to determine if a phone is necessary to justify the cost.
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2. Are you willing to share?
So far in our home, we’ve decided that cell phones for kids are really a family phone and using it is a privilege. What this means is that if mom or dad need it for any reason, there isn’t a question (since mom and dad are the ones paying for it). It means that passwords will always be shared and parents will have access to the phone at any time. We’ve also made the rule that phones and devices get plugged in at night in the kitchen, and none are allowed in bedrooms at night.
3. Are you able talk together openly and honestly?
In my opinion, this is one of the most important questions you can ask. The best way to keep your child safe online is to keep the conversation wide open and incredibly honest. They need to be able to feel comfortable asking questions and you need to be able to check in with them at any time. If you already have this kind of communication in place, then you’re family has already checked off a key item on the “Is it time?” list!
As it pertains to a phone, it means if mom or dad need it, there isn’t a question. Passwords are always shared and it’s okay for parents to check the phone, texts and other messages at any time. This means that contacts on the phone, and for any app, are only with people that are known in person, and that parents approve of. It means that if anything feels strange or suspicious, it’s okay to talk to mom and dad about it and ask questions, in fact, that is ALWAYS the solution.
4. What will the phone be used for?
This kind of goes along with number one, as you’re determining the need for the phone. But beyond that, it’s good to know and agree ahead of time on what kinds of uses the phone will have. Are you going to allow social apps? Texting? Picture mail? Having a clear system set up and in place before you even need it is the number one way to keep your kid safe in this world of online interaction.
With an extra phone in our home, we have guidelines on what is acceptable, both in behavior and in interaction with others. Apps cannot be downloaded without parent approval. Parents have access to all accounts and apps. Messages and texts are for being an encouragement and being positive; meaning the focus of the conversation isn’t to be in gossip or in talking negatively about someone. Online messaging is for conversations only with people our kids know in person, and friend requests always get approved by parents; as well as phones are only allowed to be used during the day. For your child, nighttime is also when negative interactions with peers can tend to take place as well as seem overwhelming (it’s dark, they’re alone, and there’s no one awake to talk to about it). My parents always had a good rule, “Nothing good happens after 10pm,” (it was for curfew), but the same applies to social media and texts… so our “phone curfew” is much earlier than this! I know it sounds like a lot, but in reality, it’s not… and nothing is too much in considering the safety of our kids.
5. Is the gravity of being online understood?
Sometimes it’s hard to see how far reaching the internet can be, especially for kids. So, when they send a photo or text (or Snap, or Story, or whatever else you allow) to a friend, they have a hard time seeing it going anywhere else but there. The concept of not having any control of anything you post or share once it’s sent is such an important (and hard to understand) one. Though it’s an imperative concept to learn before a phone is even in hand. Make sure they can explain back to you that even though they delete something like a text or a photo that’s been sent, it doesn’t delete anywhere else. If you start talking about this before your child sends a text or posts on social, they’ll be ready to make the choices when the time comes.
Does your child have a phone yet? I know this parenting stuff is so much different that I had planned BEFORE I was a parent, and for all of us, we just want what’s best for our kids!! I’d love to hear your cell phone tips for kids, please share (I’m new to this stage of the parenting journey!).