When Should I Get My Child a Cell Phone?

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Disclaimer: There is no right or wrong age or way to give a child a phone. It is a personal decision for every family and there is no judgment one way or another. I’m seriously winging all of this unchartered territory! J Here is one way our family navigated this big decision for our tween/teen daughter and it has been seamless since we started.

When to get your child a phone is a hot topic these days in parenting circles.   If you ask Google then you will get 2,790,000,000 results from that one search.

Translation: There are a lot of opinions. The best part of parenting is you always know your child best. So look at your kids and their responsibility levels to make the best decision.

I was very nervous to take the leap into the “cell phone land” with my older daughter. I was highly addicted to electronics as a kid so I worried about that with her; even though she is very different from me.

Projection parenting is a real thing!

I heard someone once say that “cell phones are highly addictive so handing a child a phone without any rules, limits or agreements in advance is akin to giving them cocaine and telling them to do just one line per day.”

The begging and pleading for a phone started around 4/5th grade. My biggest hesitations were around the addictive quality and the monthly costs.

We came up with some solutions that are working nicely so far.

We started her off with a Trac Fone which is like a burner phone that you can get at Walgreens/CVS for a low cost and gives the basics of cell phone use for text and phone use.

It has basic Internet access, but it was kind of a pain for her to use so it was a good trial phone to work out the kinks. It had a low addictive quality because using it wasn’t very user friendly.

The trac phone was about $30 to purchase and about $20 a month. It was like having training wheels for a bike.

If we made the leap into an iPhone, we wanted her to help pay for the monthly charge because it is a huge commitment to get the phone with the monthly fees. A cell phone can be hundreds of dollars just for the phone and then around $50-$75 a month for the service with our carrier. She saved enough money to purchase the actual phone, but there was no way she could pay that tab every month.

We wanted her to pay for the monthly fee, but she doesn’t have a job at 12 so that price tag every month would be too hefty. She earns money for house tasks, and is gifted money at holidays and her birthday, but not that much and even if she could, I didn’t want to clear her out every month because it’s nice for her to have money in her bank to get things she wants and learn about money management.

We came up with a plan that is a win-win and practiced for months prior to see if it was a feasible plan.

The plan is that she reads personal development books in exchange for payment of her monthly fee. She reads about tween/teen issues like developing confidence, time management, self esteem, grit, making friends, getting along with others and the like. They make a slew of books for kids her age and it’s made such a difference in her mindset, attitude and overall energy because she’s learning so much.

We practiced this setup for months prior to her getting one for her birthday and we originally told her she may get one when she’s 13, but she earned it earlier because she turned in summaries in the months prior to her getting one without any monitoring or reminding her to read the books or turn in the summaries via email.  

We all signed a cell phone contract about phone etiquette. She needs to get approval from us about age appropriate apps to download. We have preselected time limits set within the phone for the more addictive apps. She has unlimited use for some apps like her Bible app.

We monitor her actual phone use, but we don’t want to monitor any of the actual books reading and nagging her to read them so this is the plan we devised below.

We practiced this process for months prior so we don’t have to police or nag her to read books she chooses her plan every month…..kind of like in real life!

It’s been a win-win all around; and we text each other 100x a day from the other room so it’s actually been a connecting and bonding experience all around.

So she is in full control of her iPhone plan that she gets for the following month. She simply emails me the summaries throughout the month and I drop them into a folder dedicated to her summaries. I check the folder at the end of each month and that is the plan she has chosen for the next month. It’s like she gets to choose her own ending on those story mysteries.

It is important to note that I am reading these books too. I’m either reading the same book as her or I am reading another personal development book that pertains to my life so she knows I’m doing the same thing I’m asking her to do and she sees the importance of it. When she was younger we read the books to them like we did for lap reading when they were even younger. We are doing the same approach with our 9-year-old son so he is ready for a phone when it is time and he’s exposed to these mindset tools early on as they are developing their brain and creating brain synapses that will carry with them for life.

After I lay out the plan for parents, the next question I get asked is what kinds of books do they read and what are their favorites? Here are some of Lily’s favorites and then a comprehensive list for all ages below:

 

Some book title ideas for teens and tweens: 

https://tinyurl.com/PDBooksForCellPhoneContracts

Some book title ideas for intermediate kids (Grades 3-5):

https://tinyurl.com/IntermediatePDBookIdeas

Here are some ideas for younger kids to about 2nd grade:

https://tinyurl.com/PrimaryPDBookIdeas

Grown ups:

https://tinyurl.com/PDBookIdeasForGrownUps

 

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Kelly Hutcheson
Kelly Hutcheson, a child counselor with a Masters in Child Counseling, a Certified Life Coach from The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo, a behavior specialist, a teacher and a parent of 2 is addicted to positivity and living her best life each and everyday without coasting!   She has overcome people pleasing, perfectionism, and caring what others think to live her most authentic life and she loves teaching others how to do the same.   Her passion has always been for kids her emphasis in life is in helping parents connect more with their children, getting them to listen without yelling and restoring the harmony in your home forever.   Kelly is a bundle of positive energy who radiates this through her message of having fun again with your children, enjoying them on a whole new level. Kelly loves teaching and will help you see your children in their miraculous light, as they were hand chosen for you to raise!