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MissAusten's avatar

Parents of tweens and young teens: What's your strategy for managing your child's cell phone usage?

Asked by MissAusten (16157points) August 22nd, 2011

Our daughter is 12½ and, for the first time, will be walking to and from school. My husband insists on getting her a cell phone before the school year starts since she will be walking (even though the school is practically in our back yard).

I’m willing to go along with this, but the two of us don’t agree on what features she should be allowed to have. He wants her to be able to send and receive texts and photos, but I think she should only be able to use the cell phone as a phone for at least the next couple of years. I’m sure we’ll reach a compromise we can live with, but I’m wondering how other parents handle their kid’s cell phone.

Can they do it all with their phones, or do they have restrictions? How well does that work out? Does your cell phone company give you good options for managing your child’s phone?

For the record, our daughter hasn’t had any interest in getting a cell phone. Her best friends do not have phones. However, after an incident yesterday where she briefly got lost in the woods, she has said she will now be open to having her own phone.

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21 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

My kids are a bit younger than your daughter, but they have a phone for emergencies. They are only allowed to make and receive calls to and from immediate family members, no texting or calling just for the sake of calling. Definitely no data plan, no internet or picture mail. When they are home, the phone is put away or shut off. They know this, and for the time being they are really good about adhering to the rules. At the same time, they feel uber-cool that they get to have a phone at all.

Hibernate's avatar

There’s always the option to give me a sim card which has no money on them and is usable only for receiving calls [though it won’t help is they need to make an urgent call].

Anyway the younger they learn to manage the calls the better. Tell them they are not allowed more than X amount on money on the card. [don’t start with a subscriber phone]. And tell them they ar enot allowed to speak more than X hours per week on the phone. An aunt of mine gave my niece a phone a few years ago. SHe told her she won’t give her more than 5 euros per week to recharge the phone. Now she makes her lessons with 2 or 3 friends while they stay on the phone [it’s a nice subscription for them]. But while at home she does not spend to much time on the phone while they have work to do around the house. In the spare time she talks on the phone a lot ^^ But she’s responsible for the calls and she does not give the number to strangers [she’s 14]. Mine on the other hand just enjoy having a phone even if it does not have a card and they can’t even receive calls. Listening to music and watching tv on the phone is enough :P

tedd's avatar

I don’t have a child yet, but my strategy will be along the lines of… You can get a cell phone when you’re able to pay for it entirely on your own.

I didn’t have one til I was 18, and I barely needed it then. Please tell me why a child who sees everyone they would possibly like to text or talk to on the phone at school everyday, needs all this?

MissAusten's avatar

@tedd Yes, it is very, very easy to be a perfect parent if you don’t have kids. Thanks for your input. If you’d read the question details, you might have noticed that our reason for getting our daughter a cell phone is to ease our minds as she starts to have more independence. Sorry to take it out on you, but sometimes the “I’m not a parent but know way more than you lousy parents do about parenting” attitude around Fluther is something I don’t have much tolerance for anymore.

bkcunningham's avatar

Does anyone have any experience with the Kajeet phone for tweens and young teens? It looks really nice.

zenvelo's avatar

I got my daughter a phone at age 10 because her mother would forget to pick her up from school. But in the last year and a half (she is now 13 and going into 8th grade) she rarely talks on the phone to her friends; they mostly text.

I started my kids on a two phone family plan; they had 700 minutes per month. When my daughter started texting I paid $10 more per month for unlimited text. They have never gone over their voice minutes.

tedd's avatar

@MissAusten Never said nor suggested I know better than you as a parent. Just pointed out that my children won’t have them because they are an un-needed luxury, and frankly for a young child a waste of money.

wundayatta's avatar

My daughter, now 15, got her cell phone for contact with us when she was 12. That was because that was the year she had to start taking public transportation since she was no longer eligible for the school bus.

We gave her a prepaid phone. I think we put 100 dollars on it and told her that was it for the semester. She hoarded those minutes carefully, so we never had a problem adding more minutes when she needed them. In fact, we think she uses the phone too little. We’d like to hear from her a little more on some occasions. The other problem is that she keeps forgetting to charge it because she uses it so little.

She’s been using the same phone for three years now, which means the phone is pretty much obsolete. It can’t do very much. But since she should only be calling or texting, I guess that’s ok.

Her brother will be getting his first cell phone next year. He is a techno-geek and can tell you almost anything you want to know about every cell phone and tablet there is. Unfortunately, he’s expecting something of the more expensive sort requiring a more expensive plan. He will likely be disappointed.

My wife also uses a prepaid phone. I’m the only one with a smart phone, and I don’t see how I could do without it. I think everyone should have them, but, alas, I am outvoted by the girls. So it goes.

YoBob's avatar

The best method I can think of is to get a pre-paied phone and plan (I recommend Tracfone). I don’t know of any of them that can’t send/receive text these days and most will also do pictures. If you are concerned about over use, you can pay for a reasonable allotment of minutes and anything over and above your teen will have to pay for him/herself.

Even if the minute bank is run completely dry one can still dial 911 in an emergency.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, dear. @tedd , I’m sure in some universe your logic may stand up, but not in this one. Get back to us when you have to deal with the 1001 scenarios that involve your young teenage girl needing to reach a parent vs potentially being in danger.

cookieman's avatar

My daughter is eight, so no cell phone yet. She does have a WiFi capable iPod Touch. From this, she can eMail and make FaceTime video calls to me and her mom (and other relatives) for free. Come September, she’ll be able to text us for free too. This works great for now because there’s oodles of free WiFi where we live and she’s rarely on her own.

She’s been spending some days at the Boys & Girls Club this Summer with a friend. They have free WiFi so she eMails me three, four times a day to check in.

Now, in a year or so, she’ll be more independently mobile and may need a cell phone. Given all the free communication options on her iPod, I’m thinking we’ll stick with that and get her a basic pre-paid phone for emergencies only (especially when WiFi is unavailable). If she abuses the cell phone, she loses the iPod (and computer privileges).

I’m thinking she’ll be OK with this rule as she’s been really good with her iPod.

But we’ll see.

MissAusten's avatar

We’ll look into the prepaid phones as one option. We still have my old flip phone, and we’re thinking of giving her that and adding to her our plan without any text capabilities. My husband just called me to say he’s been thinking it over and is starting to agree with me about her not needed those extras (he’s so smart). If she uses my phone, we can add her to our family plan for only a small fee each month and not actually buy a phone. I’m not worried about her talking on the phone too much at this point, and we can always upgrade to more features when she’s older.

@cprevite The iPod touch is a tempting alternative. My sister-in-law has one, but I’ve never really checked it out. Thanks for the suggestion!

tedd's avatar

@JilltheTooth Then she can borrow my cell phone, like I did with my mothers.

cookieman's avatar

@MissAustin: Yeah, if WiFi is prevalent in your area, it may be a way to get her the bells n’ whistles without costing you an arm and a leg.

and, as I alluded to, Apple’s new mobile operating system (iOS5) adds free messaging (text, image and video).

GladysMensch's avatar

Unlimited texting is all they want. The only people they call are you (the parents). Everything between their friends is text. If your plan doesn’t have unlimited texts, then inform them of the limit, and that they will lose the phone for a time if the limit is exceeded. They will likely only lose the phone once.

Bill_Lumbergh's avatar

I can highly recommend the Firefly mobile phone. It is a simplistic and cheap alternative to your standard cell phone from a wireless provider. I have younger niece’s that love them, and parents that swear by them.

MissAusten's avatar

@GladysMensch Since her friends don’t have phones, she won’t be doing any texting. Also, we can have texting disabled so she can’t send or receive them. I don’t think she’ll mind since she doesn’t even want a phone in the first place. She might be the only 7th grade girl whose parents are going to have to force her to carry a cell phone.

@Bill_Lumbergh I’ve seen the Firefly phones but they seem to be geared toward even younger children. I don’t want to make her the laughingstock of middle school where it’s extremely common for kids to have the latest cell phones with all the bells and whistles.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

My 10 yr old has a phone that cost me one penny, lol. I bought it for her this past year, when she began riding her bike around the neighborhood with friends, so she’d always have a way to reach me, and I her. We have unlimited minutes and unlimited texting because that was the cheapest plan at the time I purchased our phones.

She prefers texting her girlfriends over talking, and she’s allowed to use it at home and in the car anytime she wants, except at bedtime. She has to leave her phone on my dresser when it’s bedtime. So far, she’s been following the rules perfectly.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@MissAusten My son is not a tween at age 6…however, my husband & I have already discussed when/how we will get him a phone. Our plan is similar to that of @ANef_is_Enuf.‘s We’ll have a family plan on his phone. That way we’ll be able to know he is safe, and he’ll feel safer knowing he can contact us quickly & easily.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

All 3 of my step teens have phones and all 3 of then have full text/camera types. It has worked well for their dad to be able to keep in contact with them and head off a few emergencies.

Consider getting her a limited phone/plan where she has X amount of texts and calls before the service ends and needs to be replenished with a phone card. She and also you and your husband can track her available service with the handset.

Seaofclouds's avatar

We have no plans to get our son a phone. He’s 9 now and has stated many times that he wants one because he knows so many other children that have one. We don’t think it’s necessary for him to have one at this point. He does go out and play with friends and ride his bike around the neighborhood, but he has limits of where he can go and he sticks to them. He knows our address and phone number and what to do in case of an emergency.

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