Thursday, September 23, 2010

Phone Nazi

Samsung Intensity II

We have always maintained the attitude that kids do not need cell phones, except maybe for when they start driving.  Recently, prompted by much whining that he is the only person on the earth without a cell phone (not true, I checked), we began to re-think our position on kids and cell phones.  We made a list of all the usual pros and cons, and then went a little deeper.

We started to look at how the world of communication has changed over the last 10 to 15 years.  15 Years ago we did not own nor think we needed cell phones ourselves, as we thought of them as more of a luxury than a necessity.  While we still consider them to be a luxury, we also recognize that a huge part of many people's social lives today revolve around having that instant access to talk to or text their friends from anywhere.  When I consult my crystal ball I see that the only thing that will stop this teenage cell phone obsession is the invention of newer, better technology.  In the not so distant future, I can picture kids walking around talking to holographic images of their friends being transmitted from who knows where, just as if they were really hanging out together.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that technology is only going to get more advanced as the years go by, and why not give our kids the opportunity to progress with it?

On the other hand, there are many good reasons we may not want to give our kids a phone of their own.  I have seen countless (really) kids who constantly lose their cell phones, or ruin them by dropping them in water, etc.  And how many times have you heard a parent complaining that their teen jacked up their cell phone bill by $200.00 worth of over-texting?  Then there's the question of cell phones in school.  I hate the idea of sending my kids to school only to have them spend their day texting instead of learning.

After much discussion with our 14 year old son, here is what we finally agreed to:

1.  D. may have a phone when he is able to pay for it.  We will add him to our plan, but he must pay $10.00 per month (what it will cost us), plus $5.00 per month to add on "parental controls".  If he does not pay his bill on time each month, his service will be suspended until he pays his bill.  The initial startup for the phone he chose was $95.00, which he also paid for.

2.  "Parental Controls".  Daniel's phone will be disabled (except for a select list of family members' numbers) during the following hours:  Seminary, school, church meetings, and after 9pm on school nights (11pm on weekends).  He is allowed unlimited texts and 200 anytime minutes per month before his phone blocks those phone calls.  He will not able to download any premium content to his phone.

3.  D. and his parents must all sign a detailed contract.  (I don't know how to post it here, so If you want a copy, please send me your email and I'll forward it to you.)  The contract lists what we expect from him, what he can expect from us, as well as all the reasons he can get his cell phone revoked while still having to pay for the contract.  It will be a challenge for him, but we hope it will also be a good learning experience. 

We see this agreement as a way to give our son something he wants, as well as to teach him a lesson about financial and contractual responsibility.  We hope that he will appreciate this opportunity and take it seriously, because if he doesn't, he will soon find that his parents were very serious when they signed that contract!

So, after all these years of begging, D. finally has a cell phone of his own.  Does he thank me for reconsidering his plight and finally siding with him?  No, he dubs me the "Phone Nazi".  I guess we know what we have to work on next...