We are at a major crossroad. We are deciding whether or not to get our son a phone for his 12th birthday. It’s once of those decisions that will affect life as we know it – and once you commit, there’s no going back. I think my son is pretty responsible; he’s a good kid and most of the time he makes mature decisions. But all that can change with a smart phone in his hand – and the consequences are much more serious. In other words, it’s not just the phone, it’s the web (literally and figuratively) that comes with it.
Many of his friends already have phones. In our area it’s popular to receive a phone when you enter middle school, but some kids did have them before, particularly those who have parents who both work out of the home, or kids who are on travel sports teams who might need to call for a ride or to say that practice is running late. All perfectly logical reasons for getting a kid a phone, right? But what happens when they start texting, Snapchatting, or Instagramming. Then all hell breaks loose. Cyber bullying, access to the seedier side of the internet, and sexting. Yes, ladies and gentlemen…it starts early.
Most of the parents that I’ve spoken to whose children already have phones have developed a set of rules for phone use and our school also has a “no cell phone policy” during the day – phones must remain in your locker, not on your person, throughout the day. Some of the parents’ rules that make good sense include;
1. Discussing good phone etiquette – when is it appropriate to call or text. Not during dinner, family events, social situations, or after 9pm!
2. Phones remain in one central location at night – no phones allowed in the bedroom.
3. Since these are kids who don’t drive (yet), set up rules about texting while walking – because as silly as it may seem, you can be injured or even killed while texting because you’re just not paying attention.
4. Discuss inappropriate photos – both taking and receiving them.
5. No access to social media accounts until the authorized age – and at that time, we (the parents) must have access to those accounts. A thorough discussion about what is acceptable to post and frequent monitoring of the content.
6. The child must understand that the phone is expensive and not a toy and there will be consequences if it is lost or broken through carelessness. (Consider buying insurance…because you know it’s going to happen)
7. No downloading apps or music from iTunes without permission.
We still haven’t decided whether or not to get him a phone, but many of the rules seems to make sense, and if we do decide to take that giant leap, we will implement a set of parameters similar to these.
Wish us luck…we’re going to need it…or maybe just text us a four-leaf clover emoji.