Kids and Cell Phones… God Help Us All.

I bought my son’s first cell phone on his eighth birthday…

Something that I got a lot (and I mean A LOT) of flack for from my own mother.

“He’s too young…”

“Why does an eight-year-old need a cell phone anyhow…”

“Just another distraction…”

And those were just the starters… By the time she moved on to the entrees, my eyes had rolled so far back in my head that I saw gray matter. I kid you not.

This day and age (boy, don’t I feel old saying that?), there’s no reason for parents NOT to take advantage of the convenience and sense of safety associated with cell phones. Especially when so many households have moved completely away from the added expense of home phone service.

Which is exactly what we did.

There was simply no reason to pay the extra money each month for a home phone, when the majority (meaning “every one except the ones from telemarketers”) of our personal calls were made and received via our current cell phone plan.

So,  when our son got to be the age where he began participating in extra-curricular activities, spending more time away from the house, and embarking on that age-old ritual of giggling across the line to some equally-giggly little girl (ugh. girls.), we made the decision to purchase him his very own cell phone– after much thought and rule-making, of course.

Two years later, we firmly stand by our decision. Matter of fact, we both agree it to be one of our shining parenting moments. (What can I say? We take what we can get.)

Of course, we might have to rethink that plan a bit once he gets to be a teenager.

Ugh. Teenagers.

So, in honor of such a shining moment, I thought I’d offer up some of my favorite tips for kids and cell phones… Just in case you were looking for a shining moment of your own:

1. Make a Contract.

Sit down with your child to discuss, create, and sign a list of rules and restrictions for his/her new cell phone such as no calls after 8, no phone at school, et cetera. Be sure that he feels that he has a voice in the “negotiations” and that you all came up with these guidelines together in order for him to feel involved with the whole process and thereby more responsible (and less like a child being told what to do). Once rules are established, note them down on a piece of paper and have everyone sign their agreement and commitment.

2. Keep in the Black

Does your cell phone provider not offer some sort of “capping” option to keep from going over your minutes in order to charge out the wazoo for every extra second used? Yeah, mine too. In order to keep from forking over large chunks of the college savings, be sure to find a reputable cell phone provider that caters to parents and children, allowing you to say when and how often the cell phone can be used. And how much money is spent WISELY.

3. Kids will be Kids

Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that children (and adults too) often make mistakes. In other words, just because everybody agreed that his cell number wouldn’t be given out to every Tom, Stan, and Harry out on the playground, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Tom, Stan, and Harry won’t get the number. Be sure to use a service that offers parental controls and monitoring, so that you can stay ahead of “the game” easily.

4. Money in the Bank

Use the cell phone as a means to help teach him financial responsibility. Have him chip in toward the costs of extra features or more airtime via his allowance or helping out around the house.

5. Happiness is a Job Well Done

Most importantly, don’t forget to praise him for keeping up his end of the bargain! Let him know that his dedication and responsible behavior doesn’t go unnoticed. It’ll help him to continue succeeding. And give you just another reason to say, “Neener, Neener…” to your own mother.

And that’s it! My top five tips for cell phones and children. Got a few tips of your own? Feel free to leave them in a comment below, I’d love to read them!

March 30, 2009
Categories: Reviewful

1.©2009 by Courtney Hebert as Judith Shakespeare.
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