Lucy and I went out for a mother-daughter lunch recently, and while we were chatting, she said that many of her classmates were going to ask for smartphones for their 5th grade graduation present. Trying to hide my total surprise, I asked her if she thought she might want that too. “No,” she said, “I really don’t see the point of it for kids my age.” I nodded and agreed, but I know that if my kids had older siblings, or were playing on traveling sports teams, they might well be one of those kids needing to stay in closer touch with us. But then the texting, and the screen time, and restrictions; such a can of worms to open!
Even more recently, I saw a popular post written by a blogger as a letter to her 13 year old son, who got his first iPhone for Christmas. It’s a wonderful and thoughtful approach, and there were a few lines that felt especially valuable to me.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m.
I hear my students say that they sleep with their cell phones under their pillows so they feel the vibrations when they get new texts, no matter how asleep they are, and other students say they use the phone as their alarms, so they have to keep it in their rooms overnight. Parents say the kids are constantly attached, interfering with family time and communication, and that they struggle with knowing where to draw the line. We know that kids are using their phones as their Internet sources more and more, but they still need that time to disconnect, to get healthy sleep, and to keep the online world in its proper place and perspective. I would definitely adopt a similar policy with my own kids, after what I’ve heard as a teacher.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
Again, so important! Adolescents are learning so much about themselves and the kind of people and friends they want to be, and they will inevitably make mistakes and not be as kind or empathetic as we would like to think they are. But the shock on a friend’s face when you stumble and say something you shouldn’t can be a powerful corrective that just isn’t possible when you dash off a quick text and send it flying.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
I think the lesson this mother is trying to teach her son here is one that is important to teach our children in so many arenas, from schoolwork and grades to mastering digital balance and etiquette. It’s all a process, and we are there to guide them, not punish them.
Do your kids have cellphones? How old were they when they got their first one? What rules have you established?
- Half of Americans only have cellphones (newsnet5.com)
- New limits on cellphone use for Illinois drivers (wqad.com)
- What To Consider Before Buying Your Child A Cell Phone (scrapsofmygeeklife.com)
- Kids, Cell Phones and Smart Phones- What is Your Child Ready For? (And what about you?) (hormonecoloreddays.blogspot.com)