Staying Connected With Your Teens
One mom shares how to keep your kid's cell phones in check as part of the Care.com Interview Series
When blogger and self-proclaimed "Empress" Alexandra Rosas of Good Day Regular People surveyed her "kingdom," she found that when two of her subjects reached the 8th grade, cell phones suddenly seemed necessary. So, with the help of Google and some sage advice she once read years ago, she took the leap and bought her teens a phone. See what critical rules she has in place to encourage her kids to be safe and smart, and how a little texting humor brought her and her kids closer together.
Tell us about your family and your blog.
I am the mother of three boys and I keep a humor/parenting blog at Good Day Regular People. I write of small town life where I try hard to go unnoticed. I fail miserably.
Does your child have a cell phone? What kind of phone do they have?
Yes, my son has a Tracfone.
What prompted the decision to give him/her one?
I am the mother of two teens, and having a cell phone is a necessity for the teen years. They have so many extracurricular activities and are beginning to date or group date. It is necessary that they have their phone on and are always reachable when they're not at home. We can text, I can see where they are, and I know if they are safe. And in the back of their minds, they know I may be calling at any time.
What considerations did you have about when your kids were ready for a cell phone?
I had no considerations once they reached the 8th grade. They needed a phone. I googled what to do to keep them safe with cell phone use, and voila! We were in business.
Do you have rules for your child when it comes to their cell phone? Can you share a few?
We buy a limited amount of texts and phone minutes. They are not able to delete texts, and we know their passwords. Just this knowledge makes them think twice before they send a text.
What kinds of challenges did you face that you might not have expected if your kids did not have phones?
The only challenge, and I don't consider it a challenge but more of vigilance, is to be pro-active, not re-active. Do not wait for a situation to arise, but instead work to prevent that situation. I tell my children to be aware that anything they text or post WILL be sent out into the world.
What tips or advice can you give parents who are struggling with this decision to get their children a phone?
The most important factor is AGE. Are they old enough? Or are they asking because of peer pressure? Next, assess their level of responsibility and impulsivity. I have friends whose children have learned the hard way that a text sent in anger will be passed around faster than popcorn at the movies. Never post or text something you don't want the WORLD to see.
If you had the decision to do over again, would you make the same choice to give your child the phone? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Because I know where my son is at all times, and he knows I know where he is at all times. If he needs me, I can be there. If I need him, I can reach him. A pleasant side benefit to him having a phone: I can send him funny texts, and humor is always a great way to feel intimacy with your children. I once sent him a text: "BRB CUL8R OMG LOL!" He texted back, "disconcerting and unsettling to have middle aged woman texting me like that." It was great.
What's your best piece of advice on how to make kids and cell phones "work" for you and your kids?
Rules must be clear. Consequences must be established. Guidelines must be printed out and an agreement must be signed. If they delete texts, phone is gone. If you find inappropriate texts sent by them or to them, phone is gone. Keep on guard, be the sentinel they need you to be as they navigate their new freedom. I live by some great advice I read years ago: "It's hard to take away a liberty once it's been given." Think hard before you give it.
For more advice on whether a cell phone is right for your child, please visit the Care.com Interview Series: When Should You Give Your Child a Phone? »
Alexandra Rosas was named a 2011 BlogHer Voice of the Year for humor for her writing in her blog, Good Day Regular People. She is a self-proclaimed "over analyzing, overwhelmed" mother of three boys living life in a small town where she finds herself like a fish out of water. You can find Alexandra on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo used with permission from Alexandra Rosas.