If you have children who are old enough to be in elementary school or middle school or high school, the following question will inevitably come up in your home from your child. When can I get a cell phone?
It is a tough question to answer, and it is apparent to me that many families answer this question very differently than I do. I believe, as shocking as it sounds, that a cell phone is not a need. I enjoy explaining to my children that I didn't have a cell phone when I was growing up, and I survived. I know it is shocking to say the least, but I did. I also walked 20 miles to school in my sock feet in the driving rain, and I was a better person for it.
In all seriousness, I believe that in today's society that a lot of American children have a sense of entitlement including my own at times. Carl and I really wanted to make sure the kids do not think the cell phone is a right. It is not an entitlement. We decided that if the kid wants it, they have to reach a certain age and then work to earn the privilege. When the privilege is earned, they have to pay us a small sum of money which will increase every year till year 18 when they will be responsible for their own bill at that time.
We started with one standard cell phone on our plan which we called the emergency phone. This is a phone the kids could take to the park, a band concert, or for a sleepover. It was not their individual phone, and there was no texting on the phone. This is the phone which had to be earned.
Here is how we have worked the earning of the cell phone for our oldest and will do so with our next oldest teenager within the year. When the child reached the agreed upon age, we set up a six month trial period. The trial period is mainly to earn the phone and see if the child can be responsible with the phone. Will they stay within their minutes or misplace the phone? If the phone is misused within the period, one week gets added on to the six month term. The child does not pay for the cell phone bill during the trial period. The main purpose here is to teach responsibility. This is how it looks.
First two months: The child will be able to have the cell phone in their possession on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The phone has to be checked in at night with no texting privileges. This period is to see if the child can keep track of the phone, turn it off during school hours, etc.
Second two months: If the child passes the first test, they can have possession of the phone on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This is double the time, and the rules are the same. Can the child be responsible? Are they able to navigate maturely the pull of responsibilities such as homework and chores with the pull of their phone and peers? Are they making healthy choices?
Third two months: If the second test is passed, the child can now have possession of the phone on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Texting is turned on during these months. We saved this one for last. A lot of parents have allowed their children to text much earlier than we have, but texting is scary to me. It is a detached way to communicate, and I believe some people say things through text that they would never say face to face. I also think it is the written word. Kids are impulsive and can say things which have real life consequences. I will say it again. Texting is scary to me. We randomly shadow the kid's texts and calls.
If the child completes all of these tests, they get the phone and have to pay a small amount to have the phone every month. So, there it is. That is how we have worked the cell phone in our house with our teenagers with our main goal to make the kids earn it.