When do you break down and get your tween a phone? I get asked that question a lot and while I don’t really consider myself to be a parenting expert, for some reason people think I have the answers. Truth is, I just have a lot of opinions and yes, I’ll share them with you now.*Tween cutie provided by Kate @ My Mommy Brain. She has 5 girls. Pray for her?
Having a phone is a big responsibility. It’s a little piece of pricey technology that can get lost rather easily, so it’s important that your child’s mature enough to take on the responsibility before you make the decision to get your tween a phone. When Rosie was eleven and started dancing four nights a week and on Saturdays, we decided it was time to get her a phone, but it was basic and she could only call the numbers we programmed. She also didn’t have the ability to text or go on the internet. At that time, she only needed it for emergencies.
Last year at thirteen, we decided she was ready for an iPhone. She had been playing games on her Kindle and was already starting to kik her friends, so we figured she could handle the responsibility but the phone came with lots of rules. First, we got the passwords to everything. Second, we were allowed at any time to monitor her social media. Third, we didn’t want to buy a new phone so it had to stay in an Otterbox or Life Proof case (that’s presented itself to be a challenge as she likes all the cute flimsy cases).
Truth be told, Rosie’s almost fourteen and the phone is often a sore subject. It’s too easy for kids to bully these days. It’s hard to turn off and it can be dangerous with predators out there (and yes, they do find your kids.) So, here are a few things to consider before you break down and get your tween a phone.
• If your child is like ours and spends a great deal of time away from home, you may want to consider basic phone service for your tween. But honestly, they really don’t need all the other features.
• While you’re buying time before a smartphone purchase, monitor their iPad and Kindle use to get an idea of the apps their using and the kids they speak with on a regular basis. They can dip their toes into the world of social media pretty easily that way. Have open discussions about what’s right and wrong before you give them an unlimited data plan.
• Do your research on all the social media apps the kids are using. Discuss the pros and cons of each one with your child. Be open and honest. If you’re not sure, reach out to your village of moms and ask. We’re all more than happy to share.
• Once you decide they’re responsible enough for a phone, set ground rules. You need to have a time that the phone gets “checked in” so they can turn off. You also need to be sure to have all the passwords and access to their accounts.
• Openly discuss cyberbullying with your tween. Many kids experience bullying issues in grade school. They’re magnified once they can get online and even more when there’s a phone involved. Make sure they know how to identify these kind of behaviors before you get your tween a phone.
• Talk about sexting. Yes, I know you just gasped, but there are 12 year-olds sending topless pictures. Be realistic and discuss openly with your child why they never want to do it before they have access to the technology. And, be sure to set the rules for what happens if they do.
So, when do you break down and get your tween a phone? Honestly, that’s up to you. Hopefully, I’ve given you enough fodder to make a logical decision that works for your family. Just remember, once they’re introduced to the iPhone world, they’ll never want to go back.
Deb Clem-Buckert is a lifestyle and parenting blogger that lives in the Midwest. She’s an entrepreneur, Dance Mom, avid tennis player and dog lover and she’s been known to pin too many chicken recipes. Mom to Rosie, 13, Deb was Babble’s Top 100 Reader’s Choice Winner in 2012 in the parenting category. She has a collaborative book project coming out in January 2015. You can read her each week at http://www.debcb.com