So, I promised my twelve-year-old she could go back to school with a cell phone. That was six months ago, and we are still navigating the waters. If you are new to this situation, too, maybe we can help each other.
Now, it’s not that I want to hide from cell phones, television, or computers altogether. I want a door that shuts on them from time to time, to protect sanctuary in my home.
How to find moderation with a teen or ‘tween, and cell phones? If you can learn from my experience it will make me happy. And then share your insights with me. Here are some of my hard-learned lessons.
1. Buy time. Not cell phone minutes, but as much time as needed to get informed about cell phones and teenagers. If your child is pressing you for a phone, set a date that’s reasonable for you, and then stick to it.
2. Get informed. Learn about phones, services, and payment plans. Learn about your provider’s parental controls. Don’t assume that because you have a cell phone, you know the needed facts. Assume that your child knows way more than you do.
3. Ask what boundaries seem reasonable to your child. Try to discern what he/she thinks cell phones are for. Sit down, and prepare to be educated.
4. Decide what your boundaries are. Do you mind the cell phone being used first thing in the morning? At midnight? At dinner? On family outings, hikes, bike rides, movies? Your child will have seen atrocious cell phone behavior by the time she’s potty trained. She can’t be expected to follow reasonable boundaries unless you make them conscious and clear.
5. When in doubt, start with a strict boundary and ease up later. Explain that this is a work in progress. Allow yourself to evolve.
7. If your child is young enough, start an early rule that a phone at school belongs in the locker. High school teachers report that the cell phone habit is nearly impossible to control in the upper grades—even though schools have rules against them, they are hard to enforce. Discourage the habit of carrying it to class.
8. Let your child have a say in which phone to buy, but pay for it yourself. Ownership = tiny shreds of control. Your child can pay for services if you want him to have a financial stake.
9. Finally, when it all seems too much, look for comic relief. You might try learning some texting language to try out on your partner or mother. Beyond the ever popular “WTF,” there are phrases like:
YRYOCC: “You’re running on your own cuckoo clock.”
SSEWBA: “Someday soon, everything will be acronyms.”
RUMCYMHMD: “Are you on medication cuz you must have missed a dose.”
Do you have any wisdom about teenagers and cell phones?
photo cartoon from www.photobucket.com. Click on photo for link to page.