Monday, May 20, 2013

The Cell Phone Chronicles


As promised, here's the story of our journey (so far!) of navigating kids and cell phones.  Parenting is not a one rule fits all.  We make decisions dependent on our children's needs, maturity levels, family expectations, etc..  And what works for one child, isn't necessarily the answer for another.  I'm not here to say what I think you should do but rather share what we are doing and why.  You might not agree and that's fine.  *disclaimer:  The Ting hyperlinks are part of the affiliate program that I talked about here. 


Back when K was in 4th grade or so, a few of her friends were given cell phones by their parents.  At that time, John and I could see no reason for a child of that age to have a phone.  As far as John was concerned, when our kids got their driver's license that was when they could have a cell phone.  A little background...we're not ones to rush out and get the latest technology.  Our budget is a big reason why! 

Fast forward to K starting 6th grade.  Most of her peers have cell phones and we're getting the "Everyone I know has one.  When can I have a phone?" pleas.  We turned a deaf ear to those pleas but then a few situations happened that made me rethink our stance. 

The first was when K had to stay after school for a chorus concert rehearsal.  She had told me that the rehearsal ended at 6 pm but in fact, they were done by 5:30 pm.  K borrowed a friend's cell phone to call me and ask to be picked up.  What would have happened if she weren't able to get in touch with me?  Nothing horrible, she would have just had to wait 1/2 an hour to be picked up. 

We also noticed that some of her (new) friends' households did not have a land line.  So, if she went over there to hang out or spend the night we didn't have a way of directly getting a hold of her. 

Spring came around and K decided to try out for the track team.  When she made the team, we decided to purchase a Tracfone with minimal minutes in case she needed to get a hold of us following practices.  That phone was a no frills flip phone.

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I've seen on various blogs/websites where the parents have the child sign a "cell phone contract" that spells out what is and is not appropriate behavior.  We didn't choose to do that but instead had/have talks reviewing what is acceptable to us. 

Not acceptable: 
  • Taking embarrassing/inappropriate pictures of yourself or others
  • Texting rude/inappropriate/harassing messages
  • Using the cell phone after 9 pm and before 7 am
  • Using the cell phone during school hours
  • Talking, Texting, Emailing etc with people that are not peers, family, or friends of the family

The first year we didn't have any problems and once the newness of having a cell phone wore off, K kept it turned off most of the time.  In fact, there were a few times I needed to get a hold of her and couldn't because she didn't have it on.

The second year...we had our first issue involving texting.  I won't go into specific details but the gist of it is that K texted something not nice to another girl who had hurt K's feelings.  In dealing with the situation, I went to pull up the sent texts and they weren't there.  K didn't have the phone set up to save texts and with Tracfone there is no way to pull up those texts.  The consequences of this incident were no cell phone for a month and apologizing directly to the other girl.  We also set the phone up to save all texts from then on out and of course had the requisite talks reaffirming how to handle situations like that.

Since then there have been no issues.  I periodically go through and check the phone to make sure that the phone is being used in an appropriate manner.

Come about the time that the iPhone 5 was released, K was chomping at the bit to get a smart phone.  She really, really, really wanted that iPhone 5.  Well, I didn't even have an iPhone until 18 months ago and it's the 3 so no way in heck was K going to get an iPhone 5.  Besides that, the cost of the phone plus all the data/minutes/texts she would need is absolutely not in our budget. 

Around Christmas time, there was a post on a coupon/savings website I follow about a no contract cell phone company that I had never heard about...Ting.  The idea of only paying for what was used was a concept I very much liked.  They had refurbished smart phones for under a $100.  Since K had money from Christmas that she was planning on applying to a new phone, we decided to give Ting a try.

K ended up purchasing a Samsung Transform Ultra as she wanted a touch screen and a QWERTY slider.  The initial plan we set up was minutes: S-100 for $3, texts: S-100 for $3, and megabytes: S-100 for $3.  There's also a devices charge of $6 each month.  So each month the bill should be around $18 after surcharges.

K 14 robe

The second month K went a little overboard on her data usage with all the apps and such that she had downloaded.  She was pushed into the next tier, M-500MB for $13.  Our verbal agreement was that K keep the monthly bill under $20 or else she had to pay for what was over.  I chalked that month up to the learning curve and K went back in and deleted some of the apps and made sure that her settings were changed to only updating when she was connected to Wifi.  Since then she's kept that bill under $20. 

Another part of the learning curve was figuring out an Android device.  I didn't realize that she couldn't take pictures with her phone unless she had a micro SD card in place.  There was a bit of confusion regarding that as the first micro SD card we bought was a dud. However, now that we have a good one in she can take all the pictures she wants!  (well, until her memory card is full) 

I still occasionally check her phone to make sure her use of it is in line with our expectations.  One new rule we recently enacted is that the phone has to be downstairs when she heads up to bed.  There were a few nights that someone was on Facebook when they should have been asleep.;)

That has been our experience so far.  P inherited the tracfone and other than using it to contact me following wrestling practices hasn't done much with it.  He'd rather message/face time with his iPod touch than use the tracphone!

I do have to say I'm in intrigued by the Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk plan but for now, we're happy with what we have.




15 comments:

  1. My kids are only two and three but I read this with interest. I work in public schools and see how young some kids are who have phones. My husband and I are the same as far as not having the latest technology for the same reasons. We don't even have cell phones. Most places don't have pay phones anymore so I think we will have to get our kids phones when they reach a certain age.

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  2. I've heard similar rules, all technology gets rounded up before bed and phones need to be available to be checked randomly. Seems reasonable. It's true for as much as you want to hold out on some stuff- life now necessitates some of it. We gave up our land line years ago now- my parents have even kicked theirs! And payphones are harder to come by even in schools. Sounds like you've got a good plan.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. With a 10 year old I feel like we'll be making these decisions in a few years. We don't even have smart phones yet because of the cost. And we still have our landline. I just can transition into using my cell phone for everything. Days will go by and I haven't touched my cell phone.

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  4. I'm so pleased I didn't have to worry about any of this when my kids were growing up. Sounds like you are handling it in a way that will teach the kids to be responsible and not to think that the latest of everything is a 'right'. I only have an iPhone 3, but my husband has an iPhone 4, courtesy of our son who was upgrading... LOL!!!

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  5. Thanks, Cindy - it's so interesting to see hear your experiences, and to be warned about possible pitfalls. I think we'll be following you down this path soon...

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    1. No problem! I'm happy to share and will update if there are any changes worth sharing.:)

      C

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  6. Cindy- thanks for sharing your experiences. I know I am going to encounter this stuff eventually. It is nice hearing how other people handle this stuff!

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  7. I remember we briefly chatted about this at The Book Worm, and I expressed to then how I would be curious to hear how y'all have dealt wit the cell phone issue...it totally overwhelms me to think about and we don't even have offspring of our own yet! But reading through your process felt strangely comforting. It sounds like you've found a system that is reasonable and working well for you guys and K. Bravo to you for persevering through some hiccups and for taking the time to articulate your story here with us all. It's definitely of great value to take in! Thanks!

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  8. Thank you for this post. We do not have cell phones at all and were recently looking into something simple for when im in the car with the kids and anything happens. We kept wasting minutes on the prepaids because we never used the phone, so this will definitely be something we look into.

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    1. You're welcome! That's the frustrating part of prepaids...minutes expiring on you. With Tracfone, we retain our minutes but since we've only been buying airtime in 3 month chunks those run out before the minutes do. When my son gets older and uses a cell phone more, we'll probably switch to Ting for him too.;)

      Cindy

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  9. Good job young parents. Although I am much older than you, I had to deal with the same issue with my two youngest. I also felt there was no need for such technology for kids, after all I grew up safe and sound with very little access to a phone, of course during the teen years I had to abide by rules so the rest of the family would get evening phone time! But, things change. When I was a single mom it became very important that I could reach youngest son since he was the babysitter when my working hours changed or I did overtime(I was an RN). First came a pager, later a phone, first most important rule was that when I called or paged, he was to immediately pick up or return the call. With him I never had APP issues or time excesses, those came up years later with dd. Then came college time for that one and he was in NYC, impossible to ease my mind without the ability to connect with him when I felt the need. Then came 9/11. Cell towers went down but thank goodness for technology, we found him on AOL instant messenger and although he was scared and close to the site, he was safe (now, how to sprout wings and fetch him home?). Youngest child, dd, got her cell at 13 with rules like yours. I blocked texting, then came an aweful event: local school with a shooting. The kids in lockdown reached out to help with texting and texting then became part of my dd's package. Guidelines and rules are so important, not only for the phone but the online access as well. When I was teaching a religion class in the evenings, I cannot tell you how many kids had cells go off, my rule was "shut if off" in class or I confiscate for the class time. The kids were OK with this. As a mom on a budget I did Family Talk, the latest "issue" being that I finally had to toss the now adult kids out of the nest and onto their own plans! At times technology threatens to run our lives but with rules in place I have found it to be very helpful. We also do not have a land line. Most days I don't even turn my cell on and when I am shopping (fabric shopping in particular) I never turn it on. The feeling of peace is wonderful and in my control, somewhat anyways.

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    1. Yes, things do indeed change! There are definitely a lot more challenges with social media/cell phones this generation than there was when I was growing up. Dare I say that the internet was in it's infancy when I was a teenager?;)lol But as many challenges as there are with it, there is also some good. Being able to get a hold of your child with ease is a big one!

      Cindy

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  10. Great post, Cindy. We will be getting a phone for C very young to help manage her health needs. I expect that she'll have a smart phone within the next year or so. We may wait until she finishes 2nd grade - not sure. I'm happy that you've shared info about Ting and I'll definitely be checking them out.

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  11. How you've worked through this is very helpful. We avoided the pressure to get phones when my older 2 were younger, but now that they are more independent, there are times when they really need them, and the rules become necessary!

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  12. My boys got cell phones when it made MY life more convenient, which was high school. We gave up our landline years and years ago. Not wanting to leave my boys home alone with no phone, we had an "extra" cell phone which functioned as our "home" phone. If one of the boys was going out, he took the extra phone. When the oldest started high school, he got a phone... a very basic phone. The youngest, who was in 8th grade, got the "extra" phone, but he did not take it to school because he did not *need* a phone at school. When he started high school, he started carrying a cell phone. Neither one of the boys were that interested. With the security nightmare layout of the high school campus, I felt better knowing they had phones. Smart phones did not happen until one was a senior in high school and the other was a freshman in college. Smart phones are being used more and more in the classroom. They have always been super responsible with things like Facebook. They are good boys who ask for so little.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!