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Preteen - is a cell phone a neccesity?

post #1 of 110
Thread Starter 
I'm starting to feel like a a cell phone is a necessity for my 11-year-old daughter. I drop her off at day camps and other activities and I want her to be able to reach me if she needs me. I don't think an iPhone is a necessity, but just a plain old cheap phone so she can reach me. There aren't pay phones all over like there were when I was her age.

What are your feelings about cell phones for preteens?
post #2 of 110

My 10 year old has a phone. We felt it was a necessity. There were three or four instances where my husband and I were calling all over the place to locate our son after some sort of mix up or another. Our schools bus company is a nightmare. It is so much easier just to call him or he call us if there is a mix up instead of all of us trying to figure out how to get in touch.

 

Our son is also starting to be allowed to stay home for brief periods of time while I run an errand or something and we don't have a home phone just cell phones.

 

Just a few years ago I was one of those parents who sighed and tsked when they saw preteens with cell phones and couldn't imagine why that would be necessary. Now my own son has one.

 

Now if only I could get him to remember to carry it with him when he's supposed to.

post #3 of 110

I got my kids phones when I needed them to have them. That was about 9 for us. My kids do a ton of theatre.... the youth theatre keeps on a predetermined schedule but the professional and community theatre's will let the kids off at random times. I wanted the freedom to go take a walk or run an errand while they were doing their thing instead of having to just wait for hours and hours on a daily basis. I didn't want my kids bugging the adults for a phone and there were rarely any public phones. My kids having phones gave ME freedom lol.

 

I know DD started with a pay-as-you-go phone but it was really not cheaper than adding a line to our plan. She didn't get a smart phone until 11th grade and she pays for her data plan. My DS 12 has a bare bones texting phone... no data and he won't get a data plan until high school.

 

Obviously, you put your restrictions down and re-evaluate rules at different stages but honestly, my kids having phones has been very helpful to me and saved us a lot of waiting and pointless run-around.

post #4 of 110
Ya...I was an eye-roller until recently; now I'm looking at phones for dd's 12th. Bday. She'll be going more places on her own very soon and I'm getting tired of dh insisting she take my phone on solo trips to the store,etc.
post #5 of 110

I suspect our kids will have phones as pre-teens.  We don't have a land line at our house, so if they're old enough to stay home alone, I want a cell in the house in case of emergency.  And once they're old enough to take the bus on their own, they absolutely need phones.

 

I agree, too, that it doesn't have to be an iPhone.  I just need them to have something that makes calls.

post #6 of 110
Thread Starter 
It sounds like you're all dealing with the same issues I'm dealing with and coming to the same conclusion I've come to. There must be something to it. smile.gif
post #7 of 110

Are her day camps and other activities supervised by adults?  If so, most of them will have cell phones and/or access to a land line, so if she needs to call you she will be able to do so.

 

I have never owned a cell phone.  The last time I borrowed one for a solo road trip, I found that every single time I used it was unnecessary and could easily have been avoided.  (Read the whole story on my blog if you are interested.)  The only situation in which I can imagine it being truly useful is in an emergency where there are no other people around and no land lines.  My child will be significantly older before he's going anyplace like that all alone.  In our everyday lives in the city, I've consistently found it easy to get access to a phone if I really need one.  Compared to 20 years ago, businesses are more likely to let you use their phone for a local call, probably because it's rare for anyone to ask them now that the majority carry cell phones.  Random passersby often will let you borrow a cell phone for a moment.  Pay phones certainly are scarcer than they used to be, but they do still exist.  And on top of all that, many of the situations in which people make phone calls these days can be handled without the phone call if you plan ahead and are patient.

 

Last school year (2nd grade) my partner gradually reduced the number of days when he walked to the school to meet our son, wait for him to finish playing, and walk home together.  EnviroKid is now allowed to play for up to an hour and then walk home.  We got him a wristwatch so he'd know when time's up.  Well, he often forgets to wear his watch, and I think the only reason he hasn't lost it is that (when he does wear it) it's attached to him.  I don't think he is ready to keep track of a phone, remember to charge it, and keep it dry.  However, he's shown that he IS ready for the responsibility of coming home on time: If he forgot his watch, he asks others with watches or phones what time it is.  He has occasionally borrowed a phone to call his dad to ask permission to go to a friend's house.  He has never failed to come home on time or earlier.  We've never felt that we needed to be able to call him during that hour.

 

Think about when you were 11 years old.  Did you really use pay phones a whole lot?  How did you and your parents communicate, and how did you work around the fact that you weren't able to be in constant contact?  The same strategies will work now.

post #8 of 110
EnviroBecca, when I was 11, I lived in the suburbs, my parents paid for a full-time nanny, and sometimes my dad got stuck in traffic, stranding me at ballet school after they theoretically closed. Some of the teachers would hang out and wait with me, but sometimes I wound up sitting on the steps, freezing my butt off.

If my neighbors saw an unescorted 7 yo at the park, they'd call the cops. So would I.

My house is a place where my kids, as preteens, might conceivably be alone with no land line.

I won't lend my cell phone if approached on the street. Around here, that's how cell phones get stolen. A lot of businesses that are sympathetic to the grown-up white lady who needs to make a call are openly hostile to teens and pre-teens. If my kid is old enough to take the bus alone, on this public transit system that breaks down on me as often as it does, they need a phone.

I'll put it in a waterproof otter box. I'll plug it in at night and make sure it's charged. I'll clip it to their backpacks. It'll be cheap, because I expect to have to replace it. I never want my kids to be at the mercy of strangers because a bus broke down.
post #9 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post

Are her day camps and other activities supervised by adults?  If so, most of them will have cell phones and/or access to a land line, so if she needs to call you she will be able to do so.

First time I wished my son had a cell phone - my husband had to unexpectedly go out of town for a family emergency so we asked a friend to pick son up at bus stop on Monday. On Friday we get a notice that the bus drop off time had changed from 2:55 to 3:20. Babysitter was there at 3:00 to wait for my son. Unknown to any of us the bus had dropped him off at 2:55. He went home. Waited for a while to see if anyone would show up then went to a neighbors to ask them to call his parents. He did the right thing and it all worked out. We take responsibility for son not getting informed of the change in plans, though we did try getting a message to him at school and the message was never delivered. However, we had 1/2 hour to 45 minutes of unnecessary worry while we called everywhere looking for him.

 

Between the first time and the last time - numerous late buses due to substitute drivers, stuck in snow drift, or other issues where he ended up not being where he was expected when he was expected. For some reason there aren't phone calls made to parents even when the bus is running significantly (30-45minutes) late. And a few simple youth mistakes such as forgetting he had a meeting after school and riding the bus home. One morning my daughters bus simply never showed up to pick up kids, many of whose parents were already gone for work (she doesn't have a phone yet, but she also doesn't ride the bus home, and I wait at the stop with her in the morning).

 

Final straw - Son's bus stop was changed for drop off to an unacceptable stop across the busiest street in town from his sitters house. I told him to get off at his regular stop after confirming that the regular stop was still on the route, just was no longer the one he was scheduled for. Tried to get things straightened out and was unable to reach the person who I needed to speak to to get his stop corrected. When they got to his new stop the bus driver insisted he had to get off on that stop even after he explained that his mother and sitter were expecting him at the other stop. He thought he knew the way to the sitter from the new stop so started walking. Unfortunately, the wrong direction. He was missing for over an hour with his sitter, my husband, and his school principle driving around looking for him. I was stuck at working calling anywhere I could think of. He eventually realized his mistake, 15-20 blocks down) turned around and made it back to where he was dropped where he found those looking for him getting ready to call the police. Yes the principle yelled loud and long at the bus company for their screw up. He made an understandable mistake, and did the right thing once he realized. However, a cell phone would have allowed him to call the sitter from the random street corner the bus driver dropped him off at and there would never have been an issue.

post #10 of 110
Ds2 is 11yo now and wants a phone. I won't allow one full time, but I am thinking of activating an old $10 tracfone so that he can ride his bike the half mile down quiet streets to his dad's. It'll also come in handy when we visit NYC, just in case we somehow got separated. But it will live in my sock drawer with the power off and he will only have it when he truly needs it. My kids are tech addicts and the last thing he needs is one more device to play with.
post #11 of 110
"The same strategies will work now" Sure they work but that doesn't mean it works better. When I was 11, my parents spent hours and hours waiting around for me. I was limited on what activities I could do because of that. We didn't live in walking distance to anything and so I needed to be driven places. I carried tremendous guilt about rehearsals running late and being unable to tell them in time to stay home. My parents continually tell me how lucky I am to have kids in the days of cell phones lol. Like all things, there are positives and negatives. If going phoneless works for you that's great! For me personally, the family on phones gives us all more freedom and further aides in our communication. I sort of love getting a text between classes from my 16-year-old saying "don't let me forget, I have the funniest story from you." I like that my 12-year-old sends me funny pictures when he's out with his friends. I love that my own parents send me pictures from all their adventures. I love that my husband randomly texts that he misses me and can't wait to see me. It's a nicety for our family. I think relying on other people having cell phones is a little problematic. It tends to frustrate others. Not everyone has unlimited minutes or texts. In the end, others are paying for your preference of going phoneless. Just something to consider.
post #12 of 110

My soon to be 13 yr old has a safelink phone. Its just a basic calling phone.  He walks to swim club, he is home all day while I go to work, He does homeschool.  He will be able to walk to the corner market and such this year.  Like a PP poster said, I DO NOT want my child at the mercy of some stranger for a phone or help.  I want him to be able to call if he needs to.  DS had the phone for the past couple years, never goes over on minutes and its not a problem.  I have a gadget phone which is our 'main' phone.

post #13 of 110
For us it was. He's had a phone since he was 11.
post #14 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post

Are her day camps and other activities supervised by adults?  If so, most of them will have cell phones and/or access to a land line, so if she needs to call you she will be able to do so.

 

I have never owned a cell phone.  The last time I borrowed one for a solo road trip, I found that every single time I used it was unnecessary and could easily have been avoided.  (Read the whole story on my blog if you are interested.)  The only situation in which I can imagine it being truly useful is in an emergency where there are no other people around and no land lines.  My child will be significantly older before he's going anyplace like that all alone.  In our everyday lives in the city, I've consistently found it easy to get access to a phone if I really need one.  Compared to 20 years ago, businesses are more likely to let you use their phone for a local call, probably because it's rare for anyone to ask them now that the majority carry cell phones.  Random passersby often will let you borrow a cell phone for a moment.  Pay phones certainly are scarcer than they used to be, but they do still exist.  And on top of all that, many of the situations in which people make phone calls these days can be handled without the phone call if you plan ahead and are patient.

 

Last school year (2nd grade) my partner gradually reduced the number of days when he walked to the school to meet our son, wait for him to finish playing, and walk home together.  EnviroKid is now allowed to play for up to an hour and then walk home.  We got him a wristwatch so he'd know when time's up.  Well, he often forgets to wear his watch, and I think the only reason he hasn't lost it is that (when he does wear it) it's attached to him.  I don't think he is ready to keep track of a phone, remember to charge it, and keep it dry.  However, he's shown that he IS ready for the responsibility of coming home on time: If he forgot his watch, he asks others with watches or phones what time it is.  He has occasionally borrowed a phone to call his dad to ask permission to go to a friend's house.  He has never failed to come home on time or earlier.  We've never felt that we needed to be able to call him during that hour.

 

Think about when you were 11 years old.  Did you really use pay phones a whole lot?  How did you and your parents communicate, and how did you work around the fact that you weren't able to be in constant contact?  The same strategies will work now.

 

Many of the strategies here involve relying on strangers to provide assistance.  I'd rather buy a $15 Tracfone and $10 of minutes every three months than to make my daughter dependent on others' goodwill.  I also don't want her approaching strangers and announcing that she's alone with no way to call for help.

post #15 of 110

My son was 11 when he got his first phone and that was only because he was going to start getting home from school on his own.  He would be taking a public bus and getting home when I was still at work and would be home alone for an hour. If he missed the bus or was otherwise running late, there are no public phones in the downtown area where he caught the bus. I would be expecting a call from him within a certain time frame to let me know he made it home.  I certainly did not want him relying on strangers to borrow a phone. And businesses aren't all that thrilled to let people use their phones, especially tweens.  This was also around the same time when I felt I didn't need to stay and wait around during all of his sports practices and other activities, especially since it also meant his little sister hanging around with me.  With the phone, he could let me know if practices were finishing early so I could come back for him and coaches (who are generally volunteers giving up their own time) wouldn't have to wait around longer than necessary for me to get him.

 

My daughter is 9 1/2.  I don't have a hard and fast age rule on the phone. Like with my on, it will depend on when I feel it will be useful for her to have one.  Pretty much when she is able to get around some on her own. I would guess it would be around 11, though.

post #16 of 110

For us it is. DD1 is 10. In our circle, I don't know of one kid who is 9 and up who doesn't have some type of device at least capable of texting. Most have phones even if they are cheap phones, a couple have iPods touches  with some type of app that allows texting on them. 

 

 

She got a phone younger then most but for multiple reasons. We don't have a home phone. Her old, small school didn't have a school phone but instead you called the teacher's cell directly. We ran into problems with teacher's phones being dead or them not checking them and relying important messages like mom running late at work and DD1 needed to ride home with the neighbor. She is also a serious competitive athlete. Practices last hours and again I'm relying on the coach and their cell phone. 

post #17 of 110

Well, I guess I was the parent that everyone else was rolling their eyes at. We gave our dc cell phones when they were 12 and 9 y.o. That was 8 years ago. At the time, I took a fair amount of flack for it from people who made the same arguments as EnviroBecca. We had good reasons though. Both dc were taking the school bus or public transportation. They were both involved in many extra-curricular activities. It was a convenience to everyone to be able to communicate directly when there were delays or changes of plans.

 

We tried relying on third parties (school secretaries etc.) to pass along messages. That was an immense failure. The fact is, the more people involved in passing along a message, the more likely the message will be mangled or undelivered. At minimum, I found those mangled or undelivered messages frustrating. In the worst scenario, it was downright dangerous.

 

A cell phone isn't a "necessity" like shelter, food and clothing. It is a convenience that can make life much easier for busy families. If your kids are with you almost 24/7, then it probably isn't worthwhile to get them cell phones.

 

It's funny, I'm still using one of those old, quaint flip phones from 8 years ago. My kids have moved on to my DH's hand-me-down smartphones (courtesy of his employer). I've noticed that they rarely use them as phones anymore. It's all about texting now.

post #18 of 110

We gave DS a phone this year when he was 10. It's a cheapy basic one that has around $10 on it. It helps us let DS be free-range. Free range is and always has been our ideal But as DS goes to a school outside our neighborhood now, with kids he wants to play with outside our neighborhood, it became more of a necessity. Also, DS has a few activities (clay class, chess club) that he can go to on his own, as long as I know he'll call/text me when he's leaving and when he arrives. It gives me and DH peace of mind, but also gives DS peace of mind, as well. He knows if there's a problem he can get in touch.
 

post #19 of 110

My daughter is 13 and does not have her own phone.  There is just no circumstance in her life right now that warrants that, and frankly I just feel kids and cellphones are an obnoxious combo.  (Hell, I think adults and cellphones are often obnoxious too!).  

 

However, this week she is camping with her best friend's family over 3 hours away, and so I did send her with our spare phone to check in with me every day just to put my mind at ease (this is her first time away from home for more than a couple of days).  Already I had to tell her to put the phone away and have some real fun, after she sent me 6 pictures in a row (of the campsite, nothing special) and a short video of her friend in a lounge chair.  mischievous.gif  I didn't send her camping so she could play with a phone the whole time!!  

 

Her best friend, on the other hand, has had a phone for the past two years.  My daughter has often had to ask her to put her phone away, because the girl couldn't stop texting and playing games during their time together, even at my kid's birthday party.  I just don't want my daughter to fall into the same trap.  Phones are an easy way out-  Bored?  check your phone.  Needing human contact?  check your phone (as opposed to seeking out real connection).  I just think it's unhealthy, even for grown ups.  

 

I have considered getting her a phone that is stripped down, and will probably be forced to do so next year when she goes to high school, but it won't be a fancy smart phone, and there will be rules in place for it's use.  

post #20 of 110

My sons got cell phones when they were 18, and headed off to college. Their dorm does not have land lines, and a cell phone was the only way I could reach them, or they could reach me. They are 75 miles from home.

 

DH has a cell phone; I borrow it if I'm traveling by myself. I don't have one.

 

I don't think kids "need" cell phones, but I can see where they would make parents feel more comfortable at times.

 

One of the problems with relying on a cell phone is that we get so dependent on them, we don't know how to deal with situations where the cell phone doesn't work (no service, battery is dead). Folks tend to panic If they can't reach their 11-yr-old on her cell phone because she forgot to charge it, or left it in her locker at school, or left it in her backpack at Mary's house when they went outside to play.

 

My neighbor, a high school teacher, told me a story yesterday about a young teacher at his school. He was complaining to my neighbor that he needed to contact someone, but wasn't able to do so because his cell phone was dead. Neighbor said "Dude, there is a telephone in EVERY room in the school!" This young guy was so stuck on his cell phone that using a land line simply did not occur to him.

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