At the moment, three of my teenagers have their own smart phones, but one of them does not.
It’s not that she’s too young for a phone. By most standards, she’s not too young at all. The problem is, she can’t handle it. How do I know she can’t handle it? Well, she’s given us a few clues over the past few years.
Her first few phones were the prepaid kind, the ones that just make calls and texts.
But she lost all of them.
And then there was her iPod Touch. All the apps and games she downloaded sent her notifications-LOTS of them! And every time that little thing would make a sound, gurgle, or rumble, she’d pick it up to see what was going on which invariably led to her playing the game or app that had just sent her the notification. It didn’t matter if she was in the middle of chores, homework, or even sleep! If her iPod called, she beckoned.
So instead of the Touch, she now has an MP3 that just plays music, and instead of her own phone, she relies on the occasionally borrowed phone if she needs to call home. For now, that works for us.
However, as she gets older and more involved in activities and life outside the safety of our home, she will need a cell phone. When that day comes, I’ll know better how to handle it.
First of all, I’ll start slow. I’ll probably get her one more prepaid cell phone and see how it goes for a few months. Meanwhile, I’ll have her start saving up for a new smart phone. I know she can’t really get a regular job, but she can do extra chores around the house and maybe even mow lawns or do some odd jobs for our neighbors.
Then, when we are ready for that exciting trip to the phone store, we’ll make a day of it. I’ll take her to lunch where we can discuss internet safety, cyber-bullying, appropriate texts and posts, and responsible usage. We’ll talk about apps and how to prevent all those annoying notifications from popping up at all the wrong times.
When we get to the store, I will not get unlimited data. Even if she tries to tell me she needs it for school, I know that she really just wants it for Youtube and music streaming. She can do that enough at home with our ‘free’ wifi.
I’ll also have the salesperson help me set time limits on the phone before we leave the store. There is no need for her to lose sleep just because someone ‘liked’ her Facebook status.
Finally, when we get home, I’ll make sure that her father and I have access to her accounts. After all, we’re paying the cell phone bills and she is our daughter. While we wouldn’t invade her privacy for random snooping, we would use her passwords to ensure her safety.
I know eventually and probably very soon, she will once again have her own cell phone, but with a little preparation and effort, my husband and I can offer her that handheld window to the world knowing that our guidance and teaching will help keep her safe.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)