When Does a Kid Need a Cellphone?

The general PracticalDad philosophy is that so long as your feet are under the table, then there will be rules by which you will abide; according to my father, it’s been a philosophy that he knows for certain was handed down over the past four PracticalDad generations.  And this certainly applies to the Electronics as well as everything else.

Before you react, bear in mind that we also believe that there is an appropriate time for introducing things and that we do allow leeway as the kids age.

One of the ongoing questions has been when can I have a cellphone?  Our standard response has been when you actually have a need for one.  Thus far, that takes us to about driver’s age for a teenager. 

When we were told that alot of friends had them, we also learned that part of having the phone was the understanding that numbers of parents told their kids that they were liable to be called randomly and the kid needed to respond with where they were, who they were with and what they were doing.  Eldest seemed to think that this was a selling point in the drive to obtain one.  My response – and that of my mate – was the opposite.  I recall that part of the joy of growing up was the time and freedom that came with friends away from parental intrusion.  I had clear expectations and rules, but my parents let me have that time with only those expectations to provide constraint.  And yes, there were moments of pubescent nonsense that were within the expectation boundaries but I still wouldn’t want to have to divulge them at any particular moment to the ‘rents.  My honest take is that this kind of tie to possession of a cellphone only tends to encourage dishonesty. 

But we reviewed things last week when our eldest went on a school choral trip to Disney World.  Eldest is a year away from driving and we understand that most of the peers also have cellphones, so it’s not as though there would be no way to communicate.  But I permitted eldest to take mine just in case.  There were no requirements about nightly bedtime calls, apart from the request to contact us about an hour before returning to the pick-up point so that I could retrieve her.  Eldest also understands from a previous experience that I’m not on a text plan and that any text message costs $.50 each; because the need for her to know never occurred to me, I paid for that one but informed her that she’d be paying any future bills.  What’s been nice is that she’s chosen to call from different points in the trip to let us know what she’s been doing on her first real trip away from the family.

I have truly missed Eldest and I pick her up this evening.  I will have dinner with her and listen to the stories of doing what with whom and how the performance went. 

And in several weeks, I’ll review my phone bill to see the usage.  The results will help form our final decision on whether the phone actually comes before the driver’s license.

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