“… do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

~ Ephesians 6:4

I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones.

I’m thankful for the many conveniences they afford, but I despise the potential temptations, distractions and dangers associated with them, especially as they pertain to children.

In conversation with parents…involved parents…I’ve been alarmed to discover their naïveté.

Smart parenting demands intention; it’s all too easy for parents to frustrate children with “Because I said so”  even when sometimes that IS the answer!  Because I’ve seen one too many heads in the sand, would you allow me to to be a Titus 2 (ahem) “older woman” for you, to offer a few practices and safeguards to consider if you’ve made the decision to allow your children to have a cell phone?  Let’s agree up front this choice is debatable, but rather than argue the benefit of either side, my intent is to offer advice for those who plan to (or already) allow their children cell phone use.

There’s no magical age a child is ready to assume this privilege, but take into consideration his levels of maturity and responsibility, and your need to communicate when apart.  Having a cell phone is a privilege not a right, and although your child will at times guilt you into believing “everyone else has one,” they don’t.

Mama D’s recommendation: The older, the better.  Ours bought theirs the summer before their freshman year in high school.  Which reminds me, it’s good for them to work for the privilege; when they have a financial stake in it, you’ll see a difference.

Set boundaries and expectations prior to purchase

It is much easier and better to begin with strict standards rather than trying to scrape that toothpaste back into the tube. For instance, require them to hand over their phone at bedtime; read their texts frequently and do not allow them to delete until you do; talk to friends with older children and solicit their suggestions.

Mama D’s recommendation: Cell phone use is a no-no when in face-to-face conversation and around the dinner table, and if we find out they’re texting and driving?  They lose driving and cell phone privileges!

Porn in the palm of your hand

I am absolutely, positively against smart phones and picture messaging. I cannot stress this enough:  even the best of kids, the ones you’d never suspect–YOUR CHILDREN–are capable of beginning a pornography addiction or sending or receiving nude images with a mobile phone.  The consequences are devastating and even could land you in prison.

A wonderful, Christian friend shared her son’s story through tears; he admitted his addiction that began with a hand-held game, that then continued with his phone.  After my own son was offered topless pictures from a girl two years older than him, we canceled picture texting (sending and receiving) for all of our children’s phones.  While they initially protested, they understood our decision and accepted it (which goes back to them understanding cell phone use is a privilege not entitlement).  They’re still able to take phone pictures, just not send or receive them.

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

~ Proverbs 22:6

As a mom to three teenagers, I’ve found it better to say “yes” to them when possible and to avoid imposing hyper-strict boundaries.  They’re  more inclined to respect the “noes” when that’s the answer because they’ve learned we’re balanced and reasonable.  In a culture and age when the internet proliferates much of life, smart parenting demands that we remain Christ-focused, diligent, consistent, informed and aware…and to realize Christian kids are just as susceptible to temptation as those outside the faith.

To give a child a cell phone with internet access and without instruction is tantamount to handing over a loaded weapon.

Your thoughts? Am I being overly dramatic?  What suggestions would you offer to parents?  Do you have experience that illustrates my perspective?

By PENSIEVE author Robin Dance, who would love to hug you in person & isn’t always this insistent :).

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  • Lisa H

    I don’t believe you are over dramatic! I hate that my exhusband gave our daughter a phone at the age of 10. His reasoning, so he could contact her or she could contact him at all times. My response, when is she somewhere without an adult who has a phone? She got one anyway and for Christmas she received a new phone with internet! I have told her no internet usage on it at ALL she has listened so far I believe. She texts her friends-girls and that is it. If I see she is using it in the evening I will tell her to put it away after a little while. Then her birthday a few months ago, he bought her a laptop! She was 12! I have 2 computers in our house, he has 1. WHY did she need a computer? Again I have told her no internet usuage at my house unless she is downstairs with me, so far so good and she always asks to get on sites before she does. The majority of her usage on the laptop is to play solitare and watch her movies. So far. There are no email accounts, no facebook accounts at this time. I will continue to preach the reasons why I dont feel its appropriate for her for as long as I can breathe and pray that she listens to me even though her dad doesn’t see the dangers in having these electronics.

    • http://www.pensieve.me Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Oh, Lisa…what a difficult position to be in :(. With your daughter receiving contradictory messages, I know your job as her mom is compounded (I’m praying for you in this moment….).

      All of our computers have filters; we use Net Nanny. Even that is not foolproof, but it’s the best tool we’ve found so far. There’s such a fine line where children are concerned, expressing the “why’s” of our concerns without them shutting us out, you know? We NEED for them to trust and listen to our reasoning…and for them to believe we DO know more than them from experience.

      {{hugs}} to you…your job is extra tough.

  • April

    I appreciate and agree with your advice on cell phones. My daughter, who is 12 soon, is okay with my decision to not have a phone yet. Most of her friends have one, and they call my phone a lot to get to talk to her. What I have a hard time with is ‘peer pressure’ from other moms and the jaw dropping looks on their faces when they hear that I don’t want my daughter to have one yet. Why not! How will you keep in touch with her? They seem apauled at the thought of it and they are christian women. I haven’t found anyone yet who stands in support of my decision and I need to ask God for strength to stand alone in this.

    • http://www.pensieve.me Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      April, While we didn’t meet with that resistance–people didn’t question why we were holding out–the peer pressure IS enormous on parents! Mostly, others marveled at our tenacity to hold out for as long as we did; and at the end of the day, we still felt like we were yielding to that pressure.

      Most people make a FIERCE case for convenience (I get that; coaches have grown accustomed to kids having cell phones, so practice end times vary–they know the student can call their parent for pick up >:( ); but convenience at what cost? We took seriously the potential dangers; I’m just surprised so many good parents don’t realize the magnitude of the danger.

      Then again, I didn’t realize you could access the internet, and therefore PORN, from a PSP….makes me ill!

  • LM

    Thanks for your willingness to step out and talk up. My parents put boundaries on me as a teenager and I am richer for it. We can receive enough scars in just every day living without adding the deeper and more poisonous risks to ourselves and our children. I’m blessed when I hear parents giving their children both boundaries and privileges. As I reflect on what your wrote, I am more grateful again for the boundaries my parents set in place for my well being and protection. BTW, I am thinking Covenant Eyes now has filters for phones with internet access for an an extra measure of precaution. You’ve encouraged me this morning. Protecting our minds, emotions, soul, and spirit is priceless!

    • http://www.pensieve.me Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      LM,

      And YOU have encouraged me back! Thank you!! How refreshing to hear one from one who didn’t resent the boundaries placed on her, but learned to see their value. Your parents must be awesome :).

  • jenlar3

    Our girls received phones when transportation after sports became an issue. However, the first couple years they were ONLY allowed to use it to call/receive calls from their father and myself. (We checked the phone bill each month to ensure compliance.) They did well with that restriction and as they got older, more mature and proved their ability to be responsible we gradually loosened the restrictions.

    • http://www.pensieve.me Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Your comment reminds me of teachers in the classroom; it’s always best to begin the year strict and loosen as the months progress, rather than start “loose” and try to real those restless natives back in. Kids don’t miss what they’ve never had.

  • http://littlemissemmylou.blogspot.com Emily C

    I love this post. My kids are still little. But I agree with your perspective. Who knows what technology will be around in ten years when it’s my turn to deal with this!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Emily, I’ve wondered the same–what in THE world will be around 10 years from now???

  • Mamalion

    Nope, you’re not being overly dramatic. We have most of the same rules here- no internet or picture mail (it’s too expensive!) on the phones, phones in the basket by 11pm for the oldest teens, the younger teens only get given one of the family phones when they’re somewhere without a parent or may need to contact us. If you lose or destroy it, we don’t carry insurance, so you get one of the phones we’ve replaced- you know, without the keyboard, that functions perfectly well for making calls. It’s *my* phone, and I have the right to read anything and everything at any time. And if they delete messages, they lose the phone. I’ve had friends of my kids apologize over the kid’s phone to me for language. It also cuts down on random boys texting my daughters- all they have to say is ‘Dude! My mom reads my phone!’ And you can ask my oldest daughter what happens when mom finds out you were texting and driving- lost the phone and the car for a month. She’s never done it since.

    We ‘loan’ our kids phones and cars- that way they don’t complain too much that they’re driving the ’92 Honda or the ’98 Cavalier. We tell them they’re free to go get a job and buy their own car if they want. Most of the time I’ll also put gas in the car, and that gives me the right to ask you to go run errands for me or siblings anywhere I need them to go. And when they hit 18 and start bristling at the rules, I say ‘You are free to walk out that front door at any time. Emphasis on the word ‘walk’. And check your phone in the basket on the way out.’ It makes them more conscious of the privileges they enjoy, living in this family.

    Sell it, Sister!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Mamalion,

      Rrrrrowwwrrrr! I like your sass! Now YOU are a mama with conviction and intention!! :)

    • http://headlessfamily5.blogspot.com/ Headless Mom

      I’m copying your response here and printing it for future reference! My daughter, who is 20, did ok with most of the rules about cell phones, etc, but the technology has changed so much in the 5 years since she was given her first phone that new rules will obviously need to be in place for my boys when they get older. (They are 9 and 11 now. No phones yet!)

      What happened to simple phones that only make calls? That, I might be able to handle.

      Robin, I’m also keenly aware of the web-enabled hand held games. Someone I know caught their 10 year old surfing porn that was innocently found when an ad was touched by accident. It rocked their family and destroyed the child’s innocence. It’s incredibly dangerous and quite a slippery slope.

    • http://www.walkinginhighcotton.net Jamie (@va_grown)

      Good for you! We haven’t faced this yet, but I hope and pray we’ll be as brave and upfront (and successful!) as you’ve been! I wish more parents were this convicted of BEING A PARENT to their kids. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.unplugyourfamily.blogpost.com Cassandra

    Amen, Amen, AMEN! You are absolutely spot-on with this. I am doing a Seminar in my home town on Sunday for parents. The theme? “Unplug Your Family”. This VERY topic is in the mix for extensive discussion. I started the Meaningful Movement for Media-Free Bedrooms locally and online to encourage parents to take all forms of Media directly OUT of their kids’ rooms. This includes TV, Computers, Video Games, Hand-held video games (did you know many can access the internet?), and of course, Cell Phones, iPhones, BBs, etc. You can read all the info (for any one who is interested) here:
    http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.com/search/label/Media-Free%20Bedrooms%20Movement

    Keep on keeping on… the fight against Media-oveload is not one easily fought, but, fight with bravery, resilience, and determination, and your family will reap a rich harvest. Great post. :)

    Cassandra @ Unplug Your Family

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Thank you, Cassandra! And NO, I didn’t realize hand-held games could access the internet until my friend told me that’s how her son first accessed porn. It horrified me! I bet the overwhelming majority of parents don’t realize it!

      Good for you for leading this charge! Educating parents is the first step.

  • http://callapidderdays.com Katrina @ Callapidder Days

    Fantastic advice! I, too, am amazed and saddened and just plain shocked at how many parents are clueless or just don’t seem to care exactly what they’re putting in their kids hands when they get them cell phones.

    So far, we’ve managed to avoid the whole cell phone thing. My oldest is 12 and since he’s a boy, the peer pressure is a bit less than with girls. Yes, several boys in his class have phones, but I’d say it’s still around half. Plus, he pretty much never talks on the phone… he hasn’t even asked for one.

    I do keep a “spare” cell phone — it’s one of those prepaid (pay-as-you-go) old flip-phone style deals. It’s paid up for a year, and I hand it over to him if he’s going for a long bike ride or will be somewhere where he might need to contact me or I might need to contact him. It’s not “his phone,” but it still allows us to deal with situations where a cell for him would be handy for me. Seems like a good compromise for us so far…

    He does, however, have an iPod touch and a Nintendo DSi, and parents need to be super-vigilant with those, too. Basically, I’ve disabled the internet options (blocked them with passwords) so he’s “stuck” just playing games with them. :)

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Good for you for knowing TO block those, Katrina! It makes me wonder do gamemakers not care about the potential for danger? Is that their subversive goal? I don’t really believe that, but it makes me wonder why they aren’t more intentioned with educating PARENTS about the potentials that exist.

      My oldest child got her phone the “latest” compared to the other two (age-wise); once she had one, it made it easier for the younger ones to ask….

  • jennybc

    We have three children; two in college and one in kindergarten. Needless to say, the six year old does not and will not have a phone for a while. When we decided our two older children were ready for phones, they had to pay for them! We got them pay as you go phones that they had to pay for the minutes. They were both 13 or 14 when they got them and it was for the reasons listed by jenlar above; transportation to and from sports. Because the phone calls and texts costs to send and receive, they learned quickly that they should be judicious about giving their numbers out to too many people. They also learned that it costs a lot to have a phone. We had a few other rules for the phone (as we had later for Facebook) 1) we know all numbers and passwords 2) we can read any texts at any time 3) texting and driving = no car, no phone, and no life as you know it 4) no camera phones until they paid for their own phone. I believe they were sophomores in high school when they paid for their own phones with service. At that time, no picture texting/no taking pictures of others that would show them in a bad light. They are finishing their sophomore and freshman year of college and this has worked well for our family. We pay for the service right now and have had a good relationship with them over the service. I totally agree that it is easier to be stricter in the beginning an loosen up later as they prove themselves able and willing to work together on this. My older son recently asked for a data plan (he is 20). It brought up another conversation to navigate through…keeps us talking!!!!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Your #3 above made me smile (out loud). Can you believe I know of some FIRST GRADERS with phones? WHAT are their parents thinking???

      Good intent, mama…love that these are ongoing conversations in your family!

  • Darlene

    Thanks for the wonderful advice. We only have one chance to raise our children and I was thankful that I had a number of Titus moms to go to when raising mine.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Darlene, it really does take a Village…we NEED one another!

  • Patty

    I am 53 yrs. old and still have yet to have my 1rst cell phone. My soon to be 21 yr. old has not had one either. Guess we are just too poor to own one or just to old fashion to use them. My husband has one at work ( he delivers furniture and needs one to find out if people are home or the directions to their home).

    I have to agree with you that giving a child their own phone depends on their maturity. And I would have to agree they should buy their own!

    I do work with younger folk who use cell phones and I find them always texting, on facebook, or on a sight while working on the company clock. I find this very wrong! It seems that everytime there is something that has been invented as a good thing it gets used as an evil thing. Kids need to learn to respect the work area and not use them while on the clock. And to not text while drivng. That really drives me crazy wheather it be a teenager or an adult.

    I do agree that have a cell phone should be a privelage.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      You bring up a whole ‘nother area of concern: the work place! I wonder how cell phones are affecting productivity and efficiency! Also, how it challenges the work ethic.

      The ramifications never end, do they?

  • http://ohlauradarling.blogspot.com/ Laura

    I am 22 now, and didn’t receive a cell phone until right before I went away to college. ALL of my friends had them before me and I remember thinking it was just so unfair that my parents wouldn’t let me have one. If I was going to be driving somewhere alone, I was allowed to take my mom’s, in case anything happened. But how embarrassing when asked for your number to say “well…this is my mom’s…”!! However, now I realize that they were just looking out for me and protecting me.

    I’m glad I didn’t have one when I was younger, mostly because I think cell phones have made bullying increase dramatically. My sister is in high school now and the things that girls send to each other through text message can be brutal. I think hiding behind a screen/phone gives girls “confidence” that they wouldn’t have face to face, and therefore causes them to say terrible, terrible things. It makes me sad. I’m glad my parents made me wait!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Laura, I sure hope your parents see this :). Hindsight DOES allow for 20/20, huh? :)

      We stress that to our children over and over: always assume someone else is reading your texts, including parents; and realize that people are braver behind a screen (whether a computer or cell) and to consider if YOU’D say the same things if face to face. I hope hearing that message often makes them think hard about their choices….

  • http://storiesfor.us Amelia

    I am cheering for you right now! My kids are little (4 & 6) but I know cell phones and smart phones aren’t going away. I’m amazed at how young kids are given phones with all the bells and whistles these days. I’m looking for wisdom from parents like you who are further down the road. Thank you!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Amelia, my husband and I had a brief conversation the other night about how dating is different as a result of cell phones, Facebook, etc. We can’t even BEGIN to imagine all the affects of those tools within the context of relationship…..!

  • http://www.everydayadventuresinfaith.blogspot.com Kim

    Brilliant post.
    Informative. Honest. Empowering. Thought provoking.
    What more can you ask for?!
    Thanks!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Brilliant comment.
      Thoughtful. Generous. Encouraging. Blessing.
      What more can you ask for?!
      THANKS!!
      xo

  • http://www.callmeblessed31.blogspot.com Jami

    I loved this post! Technology can be a great tool but we put things in our kids hands they are not ready for. My children are still young but they already know how to use an ipad an iphone, etc. We have to be very careful. I plan on getting them a prepaid cell phone that only has 5 programmable numbers and no internet. Scripture teaches us to “guard our heart and our minds” and we have to do that for our kids. Thanks for posting this.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Jami,

      Wise parenting is hard; there are countless issues today’s parents have to deal with that didn’t exist when I was a kid! I guess it just surprises me so many GOOD parents are casual about cell phone use, accepting it as part of our culture without offering strict guidelines for their children.

  • http://waterwatereverywhere.net MainlineMom

    You are so right on, Robin. My kids are very young yet, but they won’t be getting cell phones for a long long time and certainly not smart phones. I’m so glad you’re talking about this.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      MM, Thank you! The thing is, KIDS don’t understand how dangerous they are! It scares me to death when I see a kid texting on the road; they look like drunk drivers.

      Then again……….so do adults……………. :/

  • http://withthekids.wordpress.com/ April Karli

    Robin – My oldest daughter is 9. A couple of her classmates (3rd graders!!) this year have cell phones. My husband and I regularly discuss the pros and cons of our girls having cell phones and when they’ll get them.

    Your “Titus 2″ perspective is both helpful and much appreciated!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      April (or is it April Karli??),

      It floors me when elementary kids have them. With few exceptions (i.e., I have friends with insulin dependent children who need to stay in touch for medical reasons) I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t often point a finger of judgment–there are three pointing back!–but this is a hill I’ll die on.

  • Kerry D.

    Great post! Not overly dramatic… At night they need their sleep. Practicing and using their cell phone responsibility is good preparation for adulthood–when they may not have as much guidance and support.

    Thanks for a great discussion.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Kerry, You make a great point: a lot of what we do as parents when kids become teenagers is provide a framework for their future decisions. I sure hope it makes a difference down the road, ya know?

  • http://www.multitaskingmama.com Melissa

    I will be sharing this post with my children to prove that I am not alone in being “overly protective” when it comes to cell phones!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      :), they DO know how to make us feel like “we’re the only ones.” Show ‘em this comment thread and they’ll know they can’t use that line!! :)

  • http://www.brookemcglothlin.com Brooke McGlothlin

    I have a love/hate relationship with all of this electronic stuff too. Sometimes I just want to throw it all out the window, move to a remote farm, and teach my sons how to work the land.

    Seriously!

    I go back and forth between thinking they need to know how to use computers (and phones) in order to make it in the world they will be in one day, and thinking that if we really wanted to, we could do away with it all.

    Some things we’ve decided: NEVER, NEVER a computer with internet in their rooms. And even though their dad and I have smart phones, they won’t. There will be a computer available for school purposes with covenant eyes firmly placed on it, and it’s use will always occur in plain site of everyone in the family.

    I would love to hear from some homeschoolers on this. Is there a need for teens to have phones as early when they’re with their families so much more?

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      I hope you get some homeschooler responses, Brooke; most HSers I know DO have cell phones.

      And good decisions about computers in their rooms–that one I do NOT understand either! I don’t like in-room TVs because of the anti-social effect.

    • Mamalion

      Brooke, if you look up at post #11, I already did a lengthy reply, so I won’t bore you with repeats, but we are homeschoolers. I would argue that there isn’t a need as early for homeschoolers to have phones, since they’re not alone as much. Our kids didn’t get phones till they were driving, so they could get hold of a parent if necessary.

      I will say though that I text regularly with my kids who have phones, and really keep closer tabs on them because I do. The college student even texts almost daily sometimes.

      We’ve always limited screen time- the computer’s in the family room, we don’t have cable, and they really only watch movies when we watch them as a family on the weekends. We do own a Wii, but only because my aunt owned one and passed away, so we got it. But again, they don’t play it much. To be perfectly honest, we just don’t have time. And it drives me nuts to see them idle like that, so they know they’re much less likely to be directed to do something if they’re reading! :-)

      They don’t need exposure to phones/media/computers early- they’ll pick it up quickly enough. My kids all did. (IOW, they’re not the unsocialized freaks we worry we’re creating! ;-P)

  • http://con-tain-it.typepad.com Roberta

    My children were not allowed cell phones, play stations and their computer time was limited to school studies only (no games allowed). For years I did not have regular cable TV…we only watched movies on the VCR (yeah back in the day…lol ;)
    My youngest had ADD and some OCD tendencies and did not need the added technology distractions. They baulked a little bit…but for the most point they knew that they couldn’t change my position. Now as adults who are thinking of starting families they tell me that they will follow my parenting example when it comes to technology in the house.
    I have lived in many places, all over the world (African, Taiwan, Panama and Italy) and the United States and have always been amazed at how much our children have here in the US and how much they tend to take for granted…especially a free education. I also quesiton why the US government is the last to step up to the public health issue of cell phones and technology for our children.
    The following countries currently ban the use of cell phones by Children (according to EMF Journal):
    · India – No use in children under 16 years of age (also it is an illegal offense for an expecting Mother to use the cell phone)
    · Israel – No use in children under 12 years of age
    · Russia – General limitation; no use under 12 years
    · France – No long calls, no use under 16, banning of advertising to children under 12, mandatory earphones with all cell phones
    · Japan – General limitation under 18 years of age
    · Tajikistan – in Central Asia bans mobile phones from schools and Universities (11MAR09) to boost education. If caught carrying or talking on a cell phone, they will be fined.
    · United Kingdom – General limitation under 12 years of age
    · Toronto‘s public health department has recommended children under eight should use a cell phone only in emergencies.
    · Health warnings for children and the use of WiFi in the classroom have also recently arisen out of Germany.
    As parents we have to show our children that “popular opinion” is not always the smartest choice. Hope this helps.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      VERY interesting information, Roberta. Thank you for sharing. Your world perspective is luxury; what an advantage….

  • Karen R

    Thank you for your post! It is so nice to know that I’m not the ONLY mom that reads her daughter’s texts and insists that I be the only one to delete them. Because, of course, she tries to convince me that I am the only mom in the world that does that! :)
    Unfortunately, your putting the toothpaste back in the tube analogy hit home because we didn’t start out with those rules; they had to be imposed when we saw abuses of the cell phone. Other rules that we have are no cell phone use during homework time. And no cell phone use after 9:00 pm. Again, according to my daughter, I am the ONLY one with those rules!
    Sadly, I feel like this generation is an experimental generation when it comes to technology because we didn’t have all of these gadgets plus the social networking when we were growing up. Therefore, it is hard for us to know what rules to impose and where to draw the lines; giving them freedom to grow, but at the same time protecting them. I am learning though to listen to my gut (which I believe is usually God talking to me!) and not second guess myself when it comes to boundaries. With all of this social networking and cell phone use and constant, instant communication, I believe that our children are not learning about boundaries, which is an extremely important skill that they will need to exercise their entire lives. It is our job to set those boundaries for them, when we see that they are not mature enough to do it themselves.
    Thanks again for your post! It’s so nice to know I’m not alone! :)

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Karen, Kids are smart, even when they aren’t trying. They’re masters at trying to heap guilt on our shoulders, especially when we make hard decisions.

      You aren’t alone; and this advice I give in part from experience, and sadly, some, in response to not acting smart enough, early enough. I would LOVE to see studies/research done on the effects of technology on relationship; I’m almost afraid of what we’ll learn (or confirm).

    • Becki

      Karen, my son (21 and a college senior) has two friends (same age) whose parents have set restrictions on their phones– no texting or calls after a certain time. College-age kids!! My daughter (18 and a college sophomore) has several friends with restrictions as well. The only reason my kids’ phones aren’t restricted is because they pay for their own plans (and phones– hubby “kicked” them off our plan for their 18th birthdays). Believe me, when they were on our plan, they knew they’d have to hand over their phones any time we held out our hands for them.

      My son recently told me that sometimes he still wonders what his momma would think if she read his texts. He said it makes him very conscience of his word choices.

  • http://www.5kidsandadog.com Dawn

    I totally agree. Two of our teens got phones when they were 18, and our 16yo now has one. The requirement here is that they have to be able to PAY THE BILL, so they have to be old enough for a job. The older ones didn’t get jobs until they were 18. Our 16yo has a very part time job that pays her just enough for her cell phone bill each month and about $20 extra for spending money, which is plenty. We have Verizon, and pay the extra $5 for parental controls. Phone service shuts off completely at 11pm and turns back on at 6am (but can be activated from a computer at any time there is a need to turn it on during that time). She can’t send or receive calls or texts during those hours. She does have picture messaging but we check them regularly. She is invested in it, and knows it could go away very easily if we have problems. It does help her a lot though because she attends community college and rides city buses to and from school. I see no reason for a child who isn’t working, isn’t driving, isn’t riding public transportation to have a cell phone. “Everyone” is not doing it.

    • http://www.5kidsandadog.com Dawn

      OH and I should say there’s no internet access on her phone, nor will there ever be as long as she is a minor. Our kids use the computer in the living room where everyone is always around. No child needs a smart phone!

      • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

        Bravo! Well intentioned, Dawn :).

  • http://www.rethinkingmythinking.com Angela Mackey

    Love it! So glad you posted this. My kids are young, but we already have rules about internet etc. And I know I will have strict rules when cell phone enter the scene. Especially having the phones in my room to charge at night. ;)

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      :) They won’t complain nearly as much as they would if you added this after the fact. Wish I had thought of this “then.”

  • http://www.servantsheart.wordpress.com Stacy

    Love this. Absolutely LOVE it. With three little ones, my 7 yr old is already asking about cell phones. I have made it perfectly clear she will not have one for quite some time.

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Oh, my…it always surprises me when littles come asking! But I guess, that’s what they see all around!

  • http://praypower4today.wordpress.com SueBE

    The one thing I would add — model good behavior for your children. I am floored by the number of parents I see “enjoying” family time with their kids at the zoo or some such and talking on their phone the entire time. “Now, we’re at the seals and then we’re going to the penguins.” Please don’t chat about it. Do it with your children. Be with them. Listen. They will model your behavior.

    Nope. You didn’t seem too opinionated to me. Ahem.

    –SueBE

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Good point, SueBE!

      It’s impossible to be fully present when there’s a cell phone in your hand. Put the blasted thing down, I say! (to myself :) )

  • http://gracefulbecoming.blogspot.com/ daisy

    great post! so glad you are speaking out about it. the recommendations are great! will pass it on!

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Daisy, Well………at least I hope I’m stimulating some conversation and thought :). Thank you!

  • http://www.walkinginhighcotton.net Jamie (@va_grown)

    This is a great topic for everyone to share on. I’m still parenting little ones and just soaking up all this great experience talking here!

    I think sometimes parents really start losing perspective. If it’s so dangerous walking to a from school that your 1st grader needs a cell phone (I know at least 2 that do for this stated reason) I think you need to reevaluate your lifestyle priorities that are placing your child in that much “danger” every day. So often we hand children a phone as if they know how to use it, but they don’t. Does your 1st or 2nd or 3rd grader know how (and have the coordination and mental discipline) to whip out that phone and remember a number to call and what info to give if there is a problem? And do they even have that much time? What exactly are we protecting them from at that age that can’t be accomplished without a cell phone in their hand?

    • http://pensieve.me Robin Dance ~ PENSIEVE

      Jamie, Hmmm…the scenario you’ve described I’ve yet to observe; the questions you raise are ones I wonder myself!

  • Amy M

    I love this post. My husband and I are in our early twenties, do not have kids yet and as far as we can see, they’re still 5 or so years away (we know it’s not all based on our timing). These very subjects of cell phone and internet use are ones that we have already discussed. We’ve stated to ourselves and a few friends around us, that we’ll probably be considered the strict parents. No cell phones until they’ve been driving for a while, and absolutely no internet in their bedroom. The only access to the internet they’ll have will be in the main room, when one or both of us are around, and that’s it. It’s refreshing to know tat we are not the only ones out there who have the same views.

  • http://amylsullivan.blogspot.com/ Amy Sullivan

    I’m a teacher, and I am shocked at how sexting has seeped it’s way into even the “good kids” lives. . .it scares me.

    You aren’t being dramatic! One good idea I have is when parents go to bed, the phone is taken, period. No one needs to be communicating all night. Shut it off.

  • http://www.16ballsintheair.com Liberty

    Well said!
    I think it’s not just the kids trying to keep up with their friends -I believe some parents buying into the rat race as well…and I am aware it’s easy for me to say that living out in the middle of nowhere. But still.

  • Rachel S

    I totally agree with you – and appreciate you speaking out on this! I’m a mom of 3 kids, ages 15, 13, and 7, and none of them have cell phones. And we get by just fine – they can use the office phone at school or borrow someone else’s phone if they need to get ahold of me. While cells are a very handy, modern convenience, they’ve truly turned into an obsession for many. Don’t even get me started on my feelings of people that are constantly on their smart phones during conversations, dinners at restaurants, church…!!!

  • http://www.rainintorainbows.com Shari

    I absolutely agree. For those with Verizon, there is a feature called Parental Controls. You can easily control what your child has access to, and the times, as well as people who can be contacted even during blocked times. It’s $5/month and more than worth it.

    We are able to change our daughter’s settings on the fly. We even use it for grade management; if we are satisfied with her grades, she can text during the week (on a limited basis, of course). If not, texting is limited to a few hours on the weekend.

    We must guard those precious hearts and minds.

  • http://coffeeanddietcoke.wordpress.com/ E.

    Great post! Parents need to be aware that there are applications that can be downloaded that hide texts! A young teen in my family was doing this but thankfully she fell asleep with her phone in her hand and her parents saw what was going on. They had been checking her texts nightly, but after that they saw that there are ways for these kids to get around the rules! So scary!

    It terrifies me to think about what my toddler will have to deal with in the future regarding these matters! Parents be vigilant!

  • Kimberlee

    I took my son for his 10 year old well child visit last week and my pediatrician suggested to make the rule now of not allowing anything with a screen in the bedroom. This includes TV, computer, iPod, iTouch, phone, DS, etc. He said I will thank him when my son is 16. Thought it was great advice.

  • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura@Life Overseas

    Hi there, Robin! I LOVE your practical advice, always, always. I totally agree with all that you’ve said. As the wife of a youth pastor for 6 years, I’ve witnessed the power of technology in the hands of teens, though my own children are still elementary/preschool. And you are right, our technology gives such freedom, but it can be so dangerous. I know parents who keep their home computer out in the living room so that the kids don’t have the freedom to use it alone in a room, and I always thought that was a pretty brilliant move.

    Anyway, thanks for this practical, wise advice. I think it’s spot-on– though perhaps not popular with the masses of teenagers we all know and love. :)

  • http://www.chasingblueskies.net Kristen@Chasing Blue Skies

    {Just shot out of my chair while clapping wildly…}

    BRAVO!

    Nope, I don’t think you’re dramatic, I think you are intentional and ON THE BALL. I think you balance the spectrum perfectly. It’s a simple fact that the older kids get, the more time they spend away from home (I’m not talking about school, either. I’m talking sports, camps, sleep overs, church activities, etc.). My oldest kids are 11, and neither of them are super interested in getting a phone…yet. As they get older and participate in more activities that take them away from us, we will allow it. But, when we say yes to the phone we say yes to boundaries with it, too. I’m using your go-to guide here as a reference point for placing those boundaries!

    And YES…it’s easier to be strict first then loosen the reins as their maturity/personality allows. Love that whole “toothpaste back in the tube” analogy!!

    Man, you are a hundred kinds of smart.

  • http://shellywildman.net Shelly W.

    My middle schooler swears that she’s the only kid in her school who doesn’t have a cell phone. I tell her that’s great! . . . she’s got lots of people to borrow from!

  • http://lovepats.blogspot.com/ Patricia

    Friends, I too am an older mom with 4 kids… two boys (20, 18) and two girls (15,12). Policing the techno gadgets can be a mentally and time consuming job. Who has time for this? That’s why the ground rules are so important. But technology is changing so fast. I was amazed when my 15 year old daughter asked me if she could download the skype app to her itouch ipod and actually skype with friends through her ipod. Fat chance. God bless her for asking! A friend who disciplined her child by removing computer and phone, had no idea that the child was using her ipod as a tool for skyping and could access email, fb, etc. As if life isn’t hard enough. My kids know that all gadgets come with safeguards that we put on. Phones have to stay in the kitchen recharging at night. Ipods stay downstairs. Computers have to stay out in the open, not in the bedrooms. Net nanny is installed and Verizon has excellent online parental controls for phones. I think we may be the only family who actually still uses alarm clocks to wake up in the morning!
    But here’s a thought for consideration … an older friend shared something important with me when I was totally stressing out about trying to keep my kids totally protected from all of the tools the enemy has to use against them. We are to be vigilant, smart and aware of course. But she reminded me that God’s children have been sinning since the dawn of time. And He has been redeeming them ever since. God uses sin to convict and redeem His children to Himself. Cain killed Abel long before there were violent video games, MTV, or porn. We cannot keep our children from sinning any more than we can protect them in every way from everything. We will not be able to raise perfect children, as we are not perfect. This isn’t a license to slack off on our parental responsibilities, or to throw our children to the wolves. It is however a call to prayer, acknowledging that we are not in complete control, and that there is only One who is sinless and loves redeeming us and our children from sin. He shed His blood to save us from the depths of sin, not the heights of perfection. Blessings to all as we travel the parenting road.

  • http://laughingmouse2.blogspot.com LaughingMouse

    I am 33, single, no kids. And I LOVED your post! I too am absolutely ASTOUNDED whenever a very young child has a cell phone. Someone asked if they have the mental capacity to pull it out, dial a correct number and relay the proper information IF there was some sort of emergency. Almost certainly not.

    Not only has technology gone WAY beyond what it was when I was younger, it is going at an exponentially faster rate. I volunteer with college students at a local state university and I *LOVE* telling them that when I was in college no one had cell phones OR internet! They are always surprised by this and they often ask some version of “How did you know what was going on/when class was cancelled/when you were meeting for dinner?” And I say one of two things: 1) You had to show up for dinner WHEN YOU SAID YOU’D BE THERE. or 2) You had to SHOW UP TO CLASS to find out if it was cancelled!! :) I did not get my first cell phone until the year AFTER I graduated college, I was 22.

    A few people mentioned the rules about paying the expenses, my parents bought my sister and I a decent but used car when we turned 16 (some bullying problems for me at the time, and since Sister is younger, she got one by default), but we had to pay ALL the expenses, insurance and gas and small maintenance, AND Dad taught us how to change our own oil, we didn’t pay for that, we had to DO IT OURSELVES. I changed my own oil in my parents garage every 3 months until after I graduated college! So, I think this is an EXCELLENT rule with phones, and with vehicles!

    I wanted to add/suggest two things. The first and most important was that I heard of a family that got 2 or 3 extra cell phones for the family, I think they had a lot of kids, and all those cell phones sat in a basket by the door and when you left, you took one. No one had their own phone, all 3 were shared phones. And they probably didn’t have texting on them because this was awhile ago, but I still think that’s a fantastic way to start them off. Group phones for the whole family and when you show you can be responsible with that, then we might talk about you getting your own personal phone.

    Also, I found an add-on for Google Chrome (My web browser of choice) that you can download called Stay Focused. It is totally free. What it does is it tracks how much time you have spent on any given website that you add to your list and once you have used up that time, it shuts the site off. You can set the times that you want it to track the time, i.e. if you don’t want your kids on it at night set the timer from 9 pm to 9 am or something. I downloaded it because I was unemployed and trying to build other business opportunities and kept getting sucked into cityville on facebook. I ended up not using it much because I got a job shortly thereafter and didn’t need it as much. But I am about to download it (just as soon as I hit submit) onto my laptop because I get hung up on facebook or email or whatever when I should be making myself go to bed earlier. You can find it here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji. And yes it only works with Chrome, but you might be able to set other limitations on Internet Explorer or disable it entirely. Or you could set up different users on your computer that are password protected.

    Just my thoughts, And seriously, KUDOS to you for speaking up and giving your suggestions. I am going to be sharing this on my facebook because i have a LOT of friends with young kids and teenagers that are going to be facing this soon. :)

  • Jami

    I got my first cell phone when I got married and moved out of my mom’s house. I was just fine. I think in most circumstances cell phones are unnecessary for children, including teens.

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  • Tiffany

    I LOVE this!! My almost 10 year old has been asking for a phone for about 3 years. My answer has always been “when you are driving by yourself.”. I already had to block YouTube on the iPad because she somehow got on inappropriate stuff. I was shocked when I sat behind some of her friends from school (a Christian one at that) at a ballgame and they all had cell phone or an touch iPod and were testing the peole sitting on the same row as them!!! I did not realize that you could text with an ipod touch! She wanted one of those, but now I am thinking NOT! Who in the world do they need to call or text??? I am ok with being the “meanest mom in the entire world” if it prevents my children from being “molested” via Internet or text! I also agree with no tv in the room. There were 4 of us in my family growing up. I am the oldest of 4. The youngest is 12 years younger. My parents were very strict but they saved me a lOt of heartache. We were not allowed to even have tv’s in our room because my dad said anything we need to watch can be seen on the family tv. We also has to be in by 12 even on prom night because nothing productive happens after midnight. My parents were not perfect but I would rather be over loved than under loved was my motto. But I had a good relationship with them. Anyway. So appreciate the wisdom of those who are further down the parenting road then I am! This is a topic that needs mOre addressing within the church! It is for out kids SAFETY not just to be making rules!!!