I really can remember years ago how I scoffed at people with cellphones, sneering that I’d never be tied down by a digital leash. Zoom forward to 2016 and how times have changed. I not only have the latest and greatest smartphone but have a smart watch on my wrist, and every person I know has a cell phone too.
Except for one: My 12yo daughter.
She’s just a few months away from turning 13, a milestone we historically have marked with the acquisition of a cell phone with her older siblings, but roughly once every week she’s in a situation where having her own phone to stay in touch with us parents would be useful. So she doesn’t know it yet, but she’s getting a phone this week!
And it’s definitely not a glamorous iPhone 7 or even a top Android phone (even though I have at least a dozen quite capable smartphones). Why? Because it’s much easier to separate out the communications functionality of the device from the play functions: She already has an iPod Touch that supports just about every major game and other tools I’m okay with her using, like FaceTime.
Here’s the phone I acquired for her, an LG Xpression 2:
I don’t mind saying that it’s darn hard to find a slider phone like this, one that doesn’t run full blown Android and isn’t designed to do three hundred things. I ended up buying this used, and it took three phones from the seller until I had one that worked properly. Still, worth it, it’s a cute little phone and will be easy to use for texting us parents too.
Before I give her the phone, however, she’ll need to sign a succinct contract that outlines the conditions of her possessing and using the phone. Here are the key points:
- This phone is a privilege and only available while you are doing well in school, completing your chores in a timely manner and are behaving as part of the family.
- This phone is only for communicating with family and friends you know from school. No-one else.
- Never share your phone number with anyone you don’t already know. Never post it online.
- I reserve the right to go through your call log, text messages and other communication as I deem necessary for your safety or security. I will try to always do so with you present.
- You will always share your current password with me. No secrets.
- Transmission of any inappropriate photos, text messages, bullying or hostility is completely unacceptable. Receipt of same is also unacceptable: I’ll expect you to show us anything bad you receive.
- The phone is only available during hours we agree upon, never to include overnight access at home.
- Violation of any of these rules is grounds for immediate loss of the phone.
I trust my daughter or I wouldn’t be offering her this greater window into the world, but at the same time, I have learned time and again as a parent that clarity and stated expectations — clearly stated expectations! — can make life go a lot more easily. If we’ve already agreed that mean text messages can result in the phone going away, it’s much harder for her to defend that, as an example.
That’s what I’m going to have in our tween cell phone usage agreement. What do you have in yours and/or what are you planning on adding to yours that I’ve skipped or forgotten?