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House Rules for Teen Cell Phone Use

Kids and cell phones at what age should they go together? Or should they at all?

Look, I know there are hundreds of arguments to be made on whether or not children should have their own phones. I ?m not here to make an argument for either side. I just know that right now, our children want phones, and I have noticed that my life has become easier since they have had them.

At our house, we arbitrarily established the age of 13 as our Cell Phone Age. Mind you, when we set that age, it was very liberal and we were hip and fun. Cell phones were relatively new, and most were only owned by adults.

Now, approximately five years later, we are old and boring for having the exact same rule.

So we are considering the possibility of doing away with the arbitrary age rule, and coming up with a list of standards that must be met. After several years of having teens and cell phone issues to work out, we have found some recurring issues that should be tackled before the phone is awarded to the lucky recipient. So here are the beginnings of my new Are You Ready for a Cell Phone? Criteria (along with each problem I am trying to preempt).

You may be ready to have a phone if you can do the following:

  1. Prove that you can keep track of a single pair of shoes (that you occasionally use) for at least six months. Any pair at all. Church shoes, flip flops, tennis shoes, whatever. (If you can hold on to them for six months I might be convinced that you could hang on to a cell phone.)
  2. Demonstrate self-control by resisting the urge to answer the house phone or even look at the caller ID during dinner or Family Home Evening. Or while showering. Or sleeping. (This will give us the illusion that you could refrain from texting and/or making/receiving calls at inappropriate times such as YM/YW, school, dance lessons, etc.)
  3. Have the ability to earn money to pay your portion of the bill and any overcharges. (When you have an income that rivals the size of a small emerging nation which could, in theory, come from a large babysitting customer base I ?ll believe that you can pay for your text messaging.)
  4. Carry a package of M&M ?s around for a month in full view of all your friends. Do not allow anyone to eat them, crush them, or drop them in any water. Including, well, any water. (This will prove that you can just say no when your BFF wants to borrow your phone to call Australia.)
  5. Fully agree that your phone will contain a GPS locater and that your parents will be tracking you 24/7. (I’m not sure many phones really come with this feature, and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t know how to use it, but does everyone need that information? I think not!)

Hmmm, surely there are more hoops to jump through more problems to anticipate. I ?m certainly open to suggestions!

And can I just say, it ?s a good thing I don ?t have to qualify for a cell phone at my own house! That caller ID during dinner thing could be a deal breaker. And don ?t even get me started on the chocolate.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Alison Moore Smith June 6, 2007, 1:06 am

    Welcome, Randi. I cried!

  • SilverRain June 6, 2007, 6:43 am

    I love this! I was wondering how to handle the cell phone struggle.

  • heatherb June 6, 2007, 10:09 am

    So funny! I loved your first post, so now you just set the bar really high for yourself.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 6, 2007, 10:24 am

    Welcome, heatherb. So glad to have you here.

    I echo your thoughts. I should have pointed out that the tears were due to laughter. My 13-year-old, however, didn’t find it so amusing. Wah hah!

  • ilveco June 6, 2007, 10:26 am

    You are hilarious!! We are just beginning the cell phone age at our place, and I’m glad to see a couple of the issues that we’ll be coming up against. We’ve set the arbitrary age at 7th grade, with a GPA of 3.5 to obtain the phone, and a maintenance GPA of 3.0 to retain posession. Now I’m going to have to add a few more hoops…. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith June 6, 2007, 10:35 am

    Welcome to you, too, ilveco! You’re right. The only thing I asked is that my kids don’t lose it and don’t download 1,400 versions of Pac Man. I’m way to soft.

  • Lewis_Family June 6, 2007, 11:33 am

    My parents were strict too, there were a couple of family phones one could take ona date or activity, but we were never assigned our own, until I was 17 then the oldest three had their own and there was only one family phone. We weren’t allowed text or to let friends us it unless it was to call home for a ride. So we didn’t have the problems, oh and if we dropped it then it was our loss. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith June 6, 2007, 11:37 am

    You poor, poor thing, Lewis_Family! Only TWO phones??!!

    We had none. In fact, we didn’t get a MICROWAVE until I was in high school.

    The fact that these things were not invented at that time does not bear on the amount of group sympathy I deserve! All together now, cry for me.

  • east-of-eden June 6, 2007, 11:53 am

    As a school teacher, I applaude your guidelines! Thank you for being a responsible parent! I love responsible parents! And as for the phones, there are many compaines that offer phone which parents can pre-program accepted numbers, pre-pay, turn the phone on/off, allow for certian numbers of text messages and so on.

    As for technology, I thought I was the cool kid way back when we we got the first Atari on the street and when we all got roller skates for Christmas one year. Of course, how could we not be the cool kids, our mom let us have our Duran Duran and Wham posters on the walls too.

  • agardner June 6, 2007, 11:53 am

    I laughed out loud at this article! This has been something I’ve started giving some thought to, although my children are still young. I do want them to be accessible in emergencies…hmm…I still have to give that some more thought.

    What this made me think of is how did we ever live without these things?? It seems like cell phones really came into vogue after I was married, and amazingly, I got through all of those dating and college years without one. Recently, I disconnected my phone because my contract had expired and we were hurting for the money, so I figure I could toughen up and live without it. That lasted about a week.

  • Lewis_Family June 6, 2007, 12:09 pm

    We still do not have cells phones ( belt tightening sacrafice ) and we have been married a little over 2 years. Yeah sometimes I am like, oh I wish we had a cell phone, but we get by. It was have cell phones and get rid of the land line and interenet or the other way around, and I cannot be without interent 🙂 I am a junkie.

  • ChanJo June 6, 2007, 6:58 pm

    Randi, is this your first post? Great! Fun! Will look forward to more.

  • JustRandi June 6, 2007, 8:01 pm

    Thanks, everybody, for all the fun comments. It is my first article on MormonMomma and it’s fun to see the discussion it generates. Way more than my posts usually do on my blog. You guys are great!
    And Alison, my first microwave was in high school, too. It was housed in our oven. Yes, a special switch on our bottom oven. That’s probably a whole article in itself!

  • facethemusic June 6, 2007, 9:56 pm

    Great post Randi!! LOVE the requirements! I think keeping track of shoes and not handing out M&M’s are my favs!
    Our kids aren’t quite at the age where we have to worry about phones yet. James is only 12 and I figure they won’t really need them until they’re starting to drive and/or date. My husband and I didn’t even get ours until a year and a half ago. And to this day, we still hardly ever use them. He uses his more than I do. I have a 400 minute a month plan, and my total minutes used last month was 13. It’s really more of an emergency or a “I have to make this call now” kind of thing when I’m out and around town.

  • Oregonian June 8, 2007, 2:01 pm

    I read this a few days ago, but just realized it was a new author. You really have a witty writing style. I read it to my husband. We had a good laugh.

  • Sharilee10 June 9, 2007, 2:44 pm

    Great Article! I loved the

    “Carry a package of M&M ?s around for a month in full view of all your friends. Do not allow anyone to eat them, crush them, or drop them in any water. Including, well, any water. (This will prove that you can just say no when your BFF wants to borrow your phone to call Australia.)”

    Too funny! As a single mother I don’t know how we ever lived without cellphones. I got a ‘family’ phone for the kids to share when my oldest was about 14 and within a matter of months all but the youngest (I guess about 6 at the time) got individual phones so that I could communicate with them and keep things together. Now that my youngest is turning 10 I think it’s driving ME as crazy as it is him that he doesn’t have his own phone, but my oldest will be going on a mission in February and that will leave an extra phone if I got him one now. We are being patient.

    I am very strict, though. The kids phones are to serve my purposes of being able to communicate with them. I have blocked texting and downloading (cost and recent research played a hand in this) from all but my oldest (he pays his own bill) and they have strict guidelines of who they can call— me, their dad (also on Verizon) and other friends who are on Verizon. Other than that, it’s emergencies only. They aren’t perfect, but they’ve been pretty good.

    Hooray for cellphones!

  • Alison Moore Smith June 9, 2007, 4:24 pm

    My 13-year-old thinks the most wonderful thing in the WORLD is to take pictures of herself on her phone and email them to my phone.

  • Sharilee10 June 9, 2007, 4:33 pm

    LOLOL . . . and just admit it, you love it too!! 🙂 If they are like the pictures my kids take they are pictures you would never get in any other setting!! Why is it they suddenly find parts of their bodies they never noticed before so incredibly interesting like toes, tongues, ears, bruises . . . and they think it will somehow be far more interesting to you of you look at it on the phone rather than in person.

  • naomlette July 11, 2007, 4:06 am

    I loved the article, and it gave me some ideas for when my husband and I have kids. Saying that, our plan (for now) is to let them have cell phones when they can completly pay for them themselves. We might buy it for them, but they must pay for everything else. If they can’t pay for it, they can’t have one. The goal is to teach them to be responsible with their money, and also so that our kids don’t end up going to kindergarten with one. But we’ll see if that’s what actually happens!:bigsmile:

  • Alison Moore Smith July 11, 2007, 9:44 am

    naomlette, welcome!!

  • mlinford July 11, 2007, 3:10 pm

    This was great!

    I think there are phones you can get that will only call parents’ phones and 911, or some kind of restrictions like that.

  • mollymormon July 13, 2007, 12:26 am

    Great guidelines! We just had cousins over and the three teens (ages 15,16 and 17) all had their own cell phones as well as both parents. They used those phones to talk to each other a lot (certainly came in handy when they got separated) and a did a lot of texting. Call me naive, but I had no idea that’s how much people use their phones, lol! We’ve got an emergency cell phone, and I get 60 minutes a month! My son (13) told his sister that he really wanted a cell phone but he knew he wouldn’t get one from us, so he wasn’t going to bother to ask since it was pointless. And he was right. If he wants one, he gets to pay for it. He still keeps losing his MP3 player (and shoes), so I’m certainly not encouraging a cell phone!

    What I don’t get is why 5 and 6 year olds get cell phones. What reason could they have for needing a cell phone? My 6 year old says he really really wants one so he can call his friends. I told him he could just pick up the phone in our house, or run over there!

  • agardner July 13, 2007, 7:39 am

    My six-year old nephew has a cell phone. They got it for him when he started kindergarten last year.

    Apparently it is programmed only for 5 phone numbers: 911, his mom’s cell, his dad’s cell, my parent’s, and his other grandparents. He is told to only use it in emergencies

    My brother kind of acted like I was a bad mom for not considering one for my own kids, but I have a really hard time justifying that expense since I know where my kids are and they are always with someone who does have a phone if they needed it in emergencies. I’m trying to imagine a situation where a 6 year old would be alone without the supervision of an adult who had a phone. Even if something happened to the adult, the phone would be available. I do teach my children how to call 911 and they know my husband’s work and cell phone numbers if something happened to me.

    Once they are a little older and on their own more, I can understand having one for safety reasons. When my girls are old enough to drive and date, they will either have a phone or I’ll give them mine to use when they are out. But I really can’t see the need for a child who is young enough to be supervised all the time to have one.

  • mollymormon July 13, 2007, 10:20 pm

    Several of my 6 yo son’s friends DO have cell phones. That’s just what I don’t get, especially when I continually hear about them losing the phones. (Or dropping them in water, or… etc) That’s why I really like the “when you can keep track of your shoes, you can have a cell phone” rule!

    And I agree with you, agardner, where is a 6 yo going to be that he needs a cell phone? I always know where my kids are too, and it seems like an extra burden to add to a 6 yo to keep track of the thing! Yeah, it’d be cool for the first day, but quickly he’ll realize it’s not as fun as he thinks.

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