Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kids and Cell Phones

Cross posted at BlogHer

During the Newbie reception at BlogHer08 I met the representatives from T-Mobile. They had a table set up with a survey about parenting and cell phones. Although my kids are older now this is an issue that I dealt with some years ago when cell phones for kids weren’t as big of an issue than they are now.
My son got his first cell phone at the age of 13, my daughter at 16. He was very active in sports, she in high school and we were travelling to a family reunion of sorts and my sister and I wanted the kids to have the phones so that we could be in contact at all times. If my memory serves me right it was the T-Mobile family plan, but I could be wrong. Boy did I hear from the other sisters. Never directly but the tone was implied that this was just another way of “spoiling” my kids.
Over time those phones have been taken away and given back and taken away again. The Girl is now grown and pays her own plan. And the Boy is still on a family plan with my sister. They have more options now with texting, the internet, email and probably many other options that I am not even aware of. But then it wasn’t an issue. Then it was Boy is going to be at baseball practice and I don’t have to stick around the whole time, I can do what I do best – multi-task – and run errands and such, then he can call when it is time to pick him up. During the later years, that phone came in very handy on Prom night when Boy texted that they were leaving the Prom and heading to the bowling alley. Knowing that I would be waiting for a text to say he arrived, he called moments later and said that there had been an accident behind them and that if I saw anything on the news it didn’t involve them they were all fine. The kids and I text back and forth often, it is a perfect way of communicating quick thoughts that don’t need a full on phone call. (Kinda like Twittering)
The questions on the T-Mobile survey were pretty innocuous I thought. What is the big deal about kids having phones? It makes planning and sports and scouts and all the other extracurricular activities easier to handle right? But like I mentioned earlier, I guess there are issues and options that I am too out of touch to be aware of.
At what age should children have a mobile phone?
My answer to this one varied. Really it depends on the kid, the activities and the environment. But having to pick only one, I chose Middle School.

· 15% - Grade School
· 48% - Middle School
· 31% - High School
· 6% - Never; only adults should have mobile phones.

What would motivate you the most to buy your child a phone?
Again I have to fall back on the answer above and fluctuate between Safety and Coordination, couldn’t they be considered one in the same? I chose Coordination as we lived in a pretty safe area at the time of the kids getting their phones.

· 70% - Safety (knowing they can always reach me)
· 20% - Coordinating busy schedules (pick-ups, etc.)
· 4% - Social (keeping them in touch with family and friends)
· 6% - Nothing; I don’t think children should have phones.

What concerns you the most about providing your child with a mobile phone?
This one threw me for a loop. Surprise bills, yeah we had those when the Girl went OVER her minutes and then OVER everyone else’s minutes. But not because of texting and downloading, that wasn’t an option in the stone age. My answer was “Losing my child’s attention”. Only recently did I become aware of the worry facing some parents about who their child is texting or talking to. A friend’s granddaughter is not allowed to text because her parents can’t control it. The older wiser me says to relax and let her text, really is it that big of a deal? You can always go in and read the texts if needed. Of course, having had a teenage girl and remembering the hellish times, part of it makes sense.

· 30% - Surprise bills because my child would text or download too much without my knowledge.
· 46% - Not knowing who my child is talking or texting with.
· 11% - Losing my child’s attention when we are together because they’re using their phone instead of engaging in the moment.
· 12% - Access to inappropriate content.

If you were considering buying a mobile phone for your child, what would be the #1 purchase factor?
Price is always the number one factor for me. Everything costs too damn much! But I guess when you look at the question above, than the answer given most makes more sense.

· 26% - Cost of service.
· 65% - Ability to manage usage (example: set limits on minutes, texting, times of use and available features).
· 1% - Choice of phones.
· 5% - Network/coverage.

Of course the idea behind T-Mobile being at the conference was a marketing ploy for their Family Allowance Plan, looking at the survey it looks like they nailed it on the head.
With Family Allowances, parents can easily:
· Set limits on the time of day when the phone may be used.
· Avoid surprise bills by managing their child’s allowance of minutes, messages and downloads via a simple Web-based interface.
· Set limits on who can/can’t call or send text messages to the phone.
· Stay connected with their kids worry free with “always allowed numbers.”

This is not a paid advertisement, this isn’t even an endorsement. I'm a Sprint customer.

But I am totally interested in your opinions on the survey and your own experience with kids and cell phones.


  1. Yes, I seem to remember rolling eyes at you, but that was many, many years before Jackson was even a blip on the radar. I am sure he will have his first cell phone well before "middle school" (what the hell is middle school anyway). Feel free to roll your eyes at me.

    Wait, not yet!

  2. We homeschool so there is probably no reason we would purchase cell phones for kids. I can barely justify mine.

  3. We have MetroPCS in Miami. Unlimited everything. I got my kids their cellphones when they got to middle school. After school activities being #1 reason. #2 I felt they were old enough to be responsible. To me it is not a spoiling thing, it is a matter of making sure I am in touch w/ them. They are actually very good about answering immediately. Also when they're out and they have felt sick they call me asap & i'm there in a flash.

  4. I'm an Old Broad... my kids are grown & married! I didn't get my 1st cell phone until the kids were probably 10, 13 & 16. It looked like a big grey brick. My kids got cell phones when they could get their own accounts and buy their own phones! I'm not sure now days about an appropriate age to have a cell phone. I have a friend who has a 13 year old daughter that used her cell phone to send threatening texts to a a classmate. Scary! The police were notified and she lost the use of the phone. Then there's me... the Old Broad... my Hubby absolutely HATES that I am always texting or twittering. I guess it depends on the maturity level of the person. Obviously.. I am NOT mature enough yet to be trusted to know when to use my cell phone and when to put it down and back away!

  5. My 10 yo has a cell phone. It's my old phone, on our family plan for $9/mo. She takes it when she goes to play dates, horse camp, and on sleepovers. It allows her to call me if she needs something, and allows me to call her when it's time to come home from a playdate, or to check in with her. She's an extraordinarily responsible child. So, I don't have any issue with her use of the phone.