I broke down and did it. I got my 10-year-old daughter, Nee, a cell phone. She’s been begging for a phone since she was eight because all of her friends had one (some of the kids have fancier phones than I do). I’m not one to buy my kids things because of peer pressure and I clearly explained my position to Nee. Of course, my “no cell phone declaration” was not enough to deter my daughter. She kept asking and I kept saying no.
My wife, KayEm, finally convinced me to relent. She promised Nee that we would get her a cell phone if she agreed to attend a sleep over camp during the summer. Nee was afraid of being away from home by herself for three days, but she mustered the courage to do it.
“I thought we agreed that we wouldn’t get her a phone until she was in middle school?” I asked my wife after she made her proposal to Nee.
“We did,” she replied. “But Nee is growing up and she’s proven that she is mature enough to handle the responsibility. Besides, she has a more active social life than we do and needs to be able to get in touch with us in case there’s an emergency.”
I was still reluctant to get Nee a phone, but I agreed. I searched for a free phone and found a refurbished Blackberry Pearl. I chose this phone because I had one before and I was familiar with the interface. I decided to get a plan with minimum talk minutes and unlimited texting because my daughter is like me and would much rather text than talk.
In addition, I added several parental controls to the phone to prevent her from racking up additional costs and to protect her from online predators.
When KayEm and I presented the phone to Nee, she was overjoyed.
“Thank you Mommy and Daddy,” she squealed.
“Nee,” I said. “We are giving you this phone because we trust that you will use it responsibly.”
“I will Daddy,” she said.
To be sure, KayEm and I gave her the following ground rules for owning a phone:
- Mommy and Daddy have the right to read all of your outgoing and incoming text messages.
- If Daddy or Mommy call or text, answer immediately.
- Don’t give out your number to strangers.
- If a stranger contacts you on your phone, immediately notify Mommy and Daddy.
- Always keep your phone securely in your purse or pocket when not using it.
- If you lose your phone, you will be responsible for purchasing another one with your own money.
- If we determine that you are not mature enough to handle a phone, we will take it away.
- Do not use the phone during school hours.
- Do share your passwords with your friends.
- The cell phone will remain downstairs in the charger at night.
Nee agreed to the rules and started using her phone. When she looked at the screen, she noticed that she had received her first text message. She opened it and read: “Daddy loves you.” She looked at me, smiled and sent a quick reply: “I love u 2.”
Question: What do you think is the best age to give a child a cell phone?