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.
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.
- 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.
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.