Jul 05

Navigating the Decision to Give Your Tween a Cell Phone

For over a year now, our oldest daughter, Reilly, has been asking for a cell phone.  We didn’t feel she was ready for a cell phone when she first asked us, and truthfully we really didn’t see the need for one.  As my wife Jayme polled some of our friends who had tweens, we found ourselves in similar thinking with them. In fact, the moms made a pact not to give their kids cell phones until Middle School, no matter how much their kids might beg for one.  Well, the day has finally come, and we have made the decision to get Reilly a phone.

While it was not the toughest decision we’ve ever had to make, it definitely caused us to really think it through for a while.  We have talked with numerous parents to get their perspective about cell phones, and have observed that for every parent who was open to the idea of their tween having a cell phone, there was one who thought it was not a good idea at all.  Reasons varied from not wanting their tween to have much access to the internet, social media, etc., to not wanting to fight the battle of saying no, to somewhere in between.  For our situation, we felt it was the right time.  Here are some of the reasons why we made the decision for a phone:

Communication:  Going into Middle School there will be times where Reilly will be on her own a bit more, and we need to be able to get in touch with her.  Where public phones are few and far between these days, we didn’t want Reilly to have to depend on someone else to get in touch with us.  This is main reason we made the decision.

Connection:  Some of Reilly’s friends will be getting cell phones, and we want her to be able to be in contact with them.  Kids today have and use cell phones, and it is one of their primary ways to stay connected to each other.

Responsibility:  Our goal is to continue to teach Reilly to be responsible, and this is a step that we feel is a way she can become even more responsible.

In addition to having reasons why Reilly should have a phone, we made some strategic decisions to help protect her and set her up with some limits:

  1. We did not go with a smart phone, but a basic cell phone that she can call and text with.  It does not have internet access at all.  While a phone will come with its own set of distractions, we didn’t want to have even more distractions with a smartphone.
  2. We would buy the phone and pay for the monthly charges.  That way, in the event that we need to take the phone away, she can’t argue the angle of “she bought it with her own money”.  We own the phone, and it is on loan to her.
  3. We bought the phone at the beginning of the summer to avoid the “but all my friends got iPhones” conversation.  We thought it would just be easier that way.  We also let Reilly pick out which phone she wanted (from the dumb phone area) so she had ownership in the decision.

The biggest decision we made was to write up a contract for Reilly that clearly details our expectations that come with her using the phone.  We wanted to emphasize that having a phone was a privilege, that it came with certain responsibilities, and that there would be consequences if she chooses not to agree to our expectations.  Before we bought the phone we sat down with Reilly and went over the details of the contract with her.  She even got to add a couple of things to it, giving her more ownership in the contract process.

I did some research online prior to writing the contract, and while there were a couple of good examples, there was really not much out there.  I’m sharing our contract as a resource to anyone who might find it helpful.  You can download our Cell Phone Contract with Reilly here.

I’ll update in the next couple of months how things are going and what we have learned.

Question: what is your reasoning for or against a cell phone for your tween?  What expectations would you set with your tween?  Feel free to share comments below so we can learn from each other.