Your Kid Needs A Cell Phone

Posted on December 6, 2011 
Filed Under Fathering, Media, Parenting

Having lunch with a friend the other day, we came across a problem common to many parents. Cell phones. More specifically, kids and cell phones.

“He wants a smart phone. But I’m not sure I want him watching movies unsupervised. And I certainly don’t want him playing games online.”

“I understand those concerns,” I replied.

“Well, we also have to figure out how to deal with the texting minutes. He routinely goes way past the allowable texts every month.”

“Why not let HIM bear the cost of the plan? I think he’ll see that it is too expensive for him to have a smart phone.”

“And,” I continued,

“Why even pay for him to have a phone at all?”

His response was expected, and I can’t really argue with the reason.

“His mother and I think it is a good thing for him to have a phone, especially if we want to reach him.”

Bottom line: How do you handle your teen’s request for a phone? For a smart phone?

On this I am surely in the minority. Of our six children, only two have their own cell phone. And they are adults paying the entire cost of the phone and plan. My 17 year-old wants a phone, but “no dice.” Our 16 year-old would surely love a phone. But we aren’t acquiescing.

“All your friends have phones. Just ask to use one of theirs if you need to call us.”

That’s my wife’s response to a teen’s”need” to have a cell phone.  And I think it is appropriate. Well, appropriate, at least, to suggest that if my kids want a phone they can…buy one.

“And give me a number or two of folks you’ll be with. Write it on the kitchen white board, please.”

That’s my request as one of our daughters leaves the house. If I need to reach her, I should be able to do so through a friend’s cell phone.

Now, to be clear, I don’t have any argument with a parent who has reasons for providing their teen with a phone.  I’m just too cheap to do that! And, I’d prefer to avoid an early dependence on technology like phones – which lead to other things (like texting, movies and games).

So, I’m pretty much a grump about cell phones for kids. Summing up our family rules:

I am not alone in this. Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal capturing a similar perspective from another parent. Liz Moyer writes,

My girls are both responsible, reliable kids who wouldn’t lose their phones (they haven’t misplaced so much as a mitten since kindergarten) and wouldn’t use them at inappropriate times like during school (too afraid of getting in trouble). But I’m going to take the un-cool route and say no to the phone, at least for now. I’d like the girls to have a few more years of talking to their friends and building relationships the old-fashioned way.

Have to hand it to Liz: The unpopular route is definitely the way to go on this.

So, about teens and ‘tweens and phones: What do you think? Does your kid really need a cell phone?


2 Responses to “Your Kid Needs A Cell Phone”

  1. Josue on December 12th, 2011 9:27 am

    John, I agree — the problem with smart phones today is that the software makers have not taken parents’ concerns into account. Both app markets (Andriod and iTunes) have a slew of inappropriate content available for free and that can come up in an app search. Additionally, for families who use a Internet filtering software at home, a smart phone creates a big “hole” in that safety net–inside and outside the home.

    I myself went back to a regular dumb phone with no web access, and bought a WiFi only tablet I only use at home (within the use of my router-based filtering software). Until Android and Apple start giving parents, and Men wanting more hedges, more options as far as filtering controls, I’ll be limiting my use of smart phone devices. It’s tough, because I love techy stuff and having the latest gear. But I can’t justify unfettered, unaccountable access to the Internet, for myself or my sons.

  2. Charlie on December 12th, 2011 11:40 am

    Funny, John, I’m already getting texts from my 10-year-old daughter’s friends who are looking for her. My 12-year-old tells me he’s the only one in his class without a phone. I told him he’ll remain that way at least until he’s driving. But I wonder what you think of this: We’ve considered getting a third “family” cell phone that we’d give to a child going somewhere where we’d want them to have one. But it would only be on a trip-by-trip basis. No ownership.

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