Teens & Phones & Texting

Parent Q&A

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  • During the pandemic many of our kids developed a pretty significant dependency on social media to maintain connection with their friends. AS they have returned to school, it has not been easy to ween them off these devices. In fact,  the very idea of being separated from their devices sends them into tailspins.

    There's a lot of FOMO,  it seems there's a belief that there is a notification or message that is paramount to their social standing every second of the day. This is such an issue that my kid is trying to convince me that he is the only 8th grader on the planet who has to turn his phone in at night and that my restrictions are criminal. He believes that ALL of his friends have access to social media throughout the night and that he is being left out. Moreover, he is embarrassed because he thinks he looks like a little kid to his friends. I simply do not believe there's an all-hours party line. Even if it is true, he'll never be one of those kids. But it does make me curious.

    WHAT do other parents do? Maybe the information would help us make informed decisions about how we manage social media. I am not interested in casting judgment, and I'm not interested in consensus parenting, but I would have more resolve if I knew 60% of the 8th-grade parents imposed similar restrictions. I make my kids turn in their phones at 10.  It's more relaxed on the weekend.  Maybe 40% of kids had no weekday access at all? Do you limit certain types of apps? contacts? hours? Do you use screentime?  Are you tempted to drop your kid's phone in a bucket of water and then claim ignorance of why it's not working?  What's the real story?

    I have an 8th grade boy and 6th grade girl. The 6th grader does NOT have a phone. She has access at home to a shared i-device that she uses on home wifi to text her friends. She knows perfectly that we don't allow its use after dinner or before breakfast (!). Her friends have been known to text very late at night. The 8th grade boy has a phone that he uses strictly for communication purposes (doesn't have Safari) with parents, grandma, and one or two friends. No problem not texting at night; we don't need to take it away because usually it never came out of his backpack. But we'd have no problem holding him to the same common standard (no phones between dinner and breakfast).

    For all of us interested in those questions and more ~ this is why we put together this event: a screen of "Screenagers" + community conversation. Hoping kids & their grownups will watch together as a springboard for discussion.

    Kids & Parents/Guardians who are trying to talk with each other about

    Cell phones/Internet access/games/TikTok/screen time/Aaaahhh!

    Please join our “Screenagers” screening & discussion group

    Friday, March 25, 2022, 6:45-9:00 PM, on Zoom

    How do we know when our kids are ready for a cell phone? With data? How do we keep our kids safe in the wildlands of the Internet? Why don’t my parents understand that I need this? That I’m missing out? 

    We don’t have the answers! But we have each other! All Berkeley middle schoolers and their families, are invited to watch “Screenagers” and join a community conversation about social media, phones, gaming, screen time and navigating our complicated digital lives. 

    6:45 zoom room opens

    6:50-8 showing of Screenagers

    8:05-9 community conversation

    This is an online event on zoom. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/ScreenagersBPL

    Families can join us to watch the movie together before the community conversation, OR watch on your own at home during the week leading up to the event, OR come for the conversation and then watch the movie afterwards. All families that register will receive a link from which they can watch on-demand any time between March 18 and April 1.

    We encourage middle schoolers to watch the movie and attend the discussion with their grown-ups. This will be a peer-moderated event and middle schoolers will be placed into breakout rooms with their family.  Thank you to The Friends of the Berkeley Public Library for sponsoring this event!

    My 8th grader doesn't have a cell phone. She had a light phone (just does text and phone basically) from around 6-7th grade. She never really charged or used it. So when the credit card it was linked to was cancelled we just never renewed the plan. She did complain that it wasn't a "real phone" and has been saying she thinks she will need a "real phone" (i.e. smart phone) for high school. The past month or so she does some gchat texting with her friends after school. 

    Your phone rules sound super permissive to me. But as context, I took my kids out of BUSD to avoid "remote schooling" and the Waldorf school they are at now discourages this type of tech use. One of the things I hadn't previously appreciated about this approach is that there is far less FOMO pressure from the friend cohort around the phone. So we are probably one end of the spectrum here. My daughter has described other kids (not from that school) as being unable to carry on a conversation that doesn't relate to memes or youtube videos, and also categorized some of the kids on her soccer team as the kind of kids who are always on their phones. So I can definitely see that your kid may feel left out of conversations if they haven't been on the device watching whatever the rest of them are talking about. My daughter hasn't said so directly but I infer this may be why she wants a "real phone" for high school, along with the general sense that it's a sign of maturity. And so she can play dumb phone games. 

    Anyway, it is absolutely not the case that all 8th grade kids have phones at all hours although certainly many of them do. I read an article recently about a parent who offered their kid $1000 or something for staying off social media until they were 18. And that worked for them. Also, FWIW if I had this issue (and maybe I will next year) I would show my kid some research on screen time negatively correlated with x, y and z. And explain to them that I'm going to be guided by this data and not by what other kids/parents are doing. Also maybe get a phone with poor battery life and keep a limited supply of charger (or yes, drop it in a bucket of water). And if you know the parents of the other kids I would reach out and try to get a consensus to keep the kids off the phones after a certain time. They may not realize their kids on the phones at all hours.

    You can tell your kid he's lucky I'm not his mother or he wouldn't have a phone at all :) It is way easier to not have one than to try to limit usage. Good luck! 

    Fellow 8th grade parent, here. 
    Our child received their first phone the summer before 8th grade. We insist on knowing what their password is to unlock the phone and will check it at random.

    The phone is to be turned in (placed in the kitchen) at 8:30 each night. Thankfully they are not at all interested in social media, so have no accounts (which I realize puts them in a very tiny percentage of teens, but I’m extremely grateful for it). 
    Good luck. This is NOT easy. 

    I never had any rules with phones or screens for my child. I felt it was important that she learn to self regulate, and I was ready to step in with rules if needed, rather than start off with rules and restrictions that may not be necessary. She had several nights when she didn't get enough sleep due to staying up late on her phone, as well as having stayed up too late doing homework because she was distracted by her phone. She quickly learned from these instances and now, as a successful senior in college, she has long known when to put her phone in a different room or turn off notifications.

    When my son was in 8th grade (three years ago) he said exactly what your son said: EVERY kid has a phone, he will be left out, I’m destroying his chance to make friends, etc.

    So at the open house in the Fall, when all the parents in my kid’s class were sitting together, I raised my hand, told them that my kid said all of their kids have phones in their rooms all night, and asked if this was true. All the parents simultaneously burst into laughter. It turned out no parents let their kid have a phone overnight and 50% of their kids didn’t even have a phone at all and weren’t going to be allowed one until high school. 

    My kid, now a sophomore in high school, is still  required to hand in his phone by 10:00. It may actually be true by now that he’s missing out on some things but we have learned by trial and error that he is simply not capable of turning the phone off and going to sleep. Every time we give him a chance he emerges in the morning with dark circles under his eyes, so exhausted he is barely able to get himself dressed and out the door. 

    Your mileage may vary; some kids can handle a phone and some can’t. But I would guess it’s extremely unlikely that your kid’s story about what everyone else gets to do is accurate.

    My 9th grader at Oakland Tech has to plug her phone overnight in our dining room. Bedroom is for sleeping, and she's ok with that.

    I'm having problems similar to yours.  My daughter, who is also in 8th grade insists that she is the only person she knows who has any phone restrictions at all.  I use Screen Time and our iphones are set up so I'm the parent and she's the child.  I also use Find My Iphone to check her location. Although her use of apps is cut off at 10 each night, she can still text.  Even with these controls, she tantrums every morning when I wake her up to go to school and she constantly begs me to give her more screen time.  She doesn't always turn in her school assignments and I'm worried because she starts high school in the fall.

    We made a rule when our kid got her phone: no cell phones in the bedroom.  That includes our phones -- if you're on social media or texting late at night, it's harder to tell your kid not to.  Our daughter is now 16, and we all still more-or-less follow this rule.  Some acquaintances with kids her age put all the phones on the charger at night, so no access.  One uses this as an opportunity to rummage through her kid's phone because she doesn't trust her kid -- maybe not a great idea, if you think kids need respect of their privacy, but then I don't have her kid.

    Berkeley High's cell phone policy reflects a study showing that an accessible cell phone, even when turned off, is a powerful distraction.  I believe that even having the phone in the room could interfere with sleep.  We've never restricted apps or websites, because we trust our kid, plus all that monitoring would be a lot of work.  Her computer lives in the dining room (no TVs or computers in the bedroom, either), so we at least have that degree of oversight.

    Hi there,

    I have a seventh grade daughter and have the same rule. No electronics (phone, iwatch, or computer) in her room after 9pm. All items are charged on our dinner table overnight. She has also told me that this is completely insane and she's the only person in the world who can't use her phone overnight, but I know that's not the case. We also limit her social apps. She does have a tiktok, but no other social media. I have access to all her accounts and her phone password as well. Navigating all this new territory is hard and I feel more comfortable limiting her use and access and being able to log in as her and see what she sees. 

    I have a 7th grade girl. She got her first phone the summer before 7th grade - an old iphone that used to belong to me.

    Our rules are: zero social media at least until high school. She does not have accounts on anything, other than iMessage and an email address. (Friends do share things like tiktok posts and youtube videos with her via text/imessage. But sometimes she can't see those because of the screen time restrictions we impose. More on that below.)

    We have lots and lots of screen time restrictions in place on her phone. It has almost zero apps, and she cannot download any apps without our approval. She doesn't even have safari, so no web browser on her phone. Basically, we set it up so that she can use it for communication via phone call, text and facetime. She also uses it to listen to podcasts. We genuinely are OK with her connecting "live" with her friends on facetime/phone as much as she wants. But the texting app has time limits. I think right now it's 45 mins a day. Occasionally (especially on weekends), she has to ask for extra time. But mostly 45 mins is enough.

    We also have downtime restrictions enabled, so her phone is basically a brick between 8 pm and 8 am. So we don't take it away, but it doesn't function at night. Very occasionally, she asks us to make an exception, usually to text a friend to coordinate some logistics for something happening the following day. But generally no phone use after 8 pm.

    Hope this info is helpful!

    You are not unreasonable or alone in your restrictions. I have a 10th grader. I limit his Instagram access to 30 minutes per day (this was after finding some inappropriate direct messages on it--may increase this with time if he uses it appropriately).  He doesn't have accounts on other social media platforms, and if I could turn back time, I would probably not allow Instagram.

    I turn off other games and internet searches at 6:30pm every night--this is when we eat dinner.   These things all stay off all night.  He does have access to a photo editing app in the evening and to text messages (but he's not terribly social, so messaging was never a problem--if it were, I would limit this off too).  The phone stays in the living room at night.    I'm sure this is stricter than many of his friends, but if we didn't do this, he would be on the phone 24/7.  I actually think he's happier with these restrictions, even though he would say that he's not.  It helps avoid power struggles as well--he gets the warning from the phone that the apps are about to close, and then they close.  It's not me nagging him to tell him to put the phone down and come to dinner.  

    My experience with this is a little outdated as my youngest is about to graduate from high school. We were of the mindset that our kids had no reason for cell phones until high school and, once they did have phones, they had to be turned in to us about an hour before they went to bed. I heard all the arguments about needing the phone as an alarm, no one else’s parents were so strict, they wouldn’t be using it but wanted it nearby, etc. I knew that their friend’s parents had a variety of ways to deal (or not deal) with the social media obsession but we stood firm that our kids had no reason for phones while they were supposed to be sleeping. As they got older, rules were relaxed. I’m not sure they would thank us now for setting this boundary but I still contend it’s what was best for our family.

    Our teens got phones in 8th grade. We did not allow ANY SM accounts. Now DD is almost 18 and we let her get TIkTok and Insta - but she cannot post on them. DS doesn't care about any SM at all. Phones go to bed when they do - phones get charged in another room. After school and on the weekends they are pretty much on them if they are home, watching Netflix, Hulu and stuff on YouTube. We made them sign and stick to house rules which include no photos to friends of any kind, no swearing in any texts, and we can look at them anytime, which we sometimes do. It's never a struggle, and they put them away when we ask for meals or to talk. Not allowed out when we go out together for a hike, etc. -we model this for them and keep ours away too. It's about good communication with them as they grow. I think the biggest thing we did to help was block SM - our daughter's friends post all kinds of crazy stuff and there's so much SM drama - our kid is happy and mentally healthy not having to worry about likes, shares and other SM crap. Good luck!

    I am really happy to see that from reading all these replies, most families have restrictions on screen time, with positive results!  We have similar rules: phones and laptops plugged in overnight at the family charging station.  Our high school senior has a 11:30 cutoff at night, and high school freshman has a 10:00 cutoff.  And yes, they say all their friends have more freedom than they do, so I'm happy to see here that many other parents enforce similar rules.

  • My daughter and I seldom get to see each other, especially these days, and so I like to keep things smooth (up to a point!). Her phone's constant presence irritates me, and also hurts my feelings, even though I know this isn't her intention. (She is also a rather touchy soul who wants me to approve how she conducts her life and to applaud her considerable intelligence and resourcefulness; non-approval upsets her. I remember being that way with my own mother.) 

    I'm not going to ask a 32-year-old to turn off the phone during dinner in her own house, but what about lunch or dinner out? Any ideas apart from "Let's put away our phones when the plates arrive."? The only action that comes to mind is to pull out a book or newspaper, and I suppose that is kind of rude as well. I'd especially appreciate any concrete tactics that you've found successful with adult children.

    I would ask her to put down her phone while at the dinner table, whether dining at home or out for dinner. Perhaps if you explain that you don't see each other much and would like to engage in face-to-face communication, or even tell her that it bothers/hurts you when she is on the phone instead of talking to you over dinner. You shouldn't have to hide your feelings from your daughter -- be forthcoming and start a discussion! We have a no phone at the table (at least while we are eating) rule, although we have younger adult children that are still being supported by us. Also, we aren't talking about a long period of time. If someone can't put down their phone for even a few minutes, that's indicative of an unhealthy addiction and a bigger problem. Good luck!

    What I found successful with my "adult child" is to be honest about how I feel about any certain thing that upsets me involving his behavior and be open to his response. Sometimes people just don't pick up on how you feel if you don't let them know. I would just say "Hey boss, can we talk about something that's getting me down a bit"? and he usually says "sure, what 's up?". Then I can say how I"M experiencing the behavior, and he can say how HE sees the behavior. Sometimes it leads to some real interesting conversations and I would say positive parent/child connectedness. Also when you say "phones constant presence" do you mean the phone is just around or is she actually using the phone - texting, tapping, etc. If she just likes having the phone around that might be hard to change - its just the way people are now. If she is actually using the phone, that's a different story and probably something to bring up. Good luck in any case!

    If your daughter is 32 and on her own, I think you need to approach this less as a mom and more about a person that cares about her and wants spend time with her. Your statement that, "I'm not going to ask a 32-year-old to turn off the phone during dinner in her own house" read to me that you thought it would be like disciplining your daughter. I don't see it that way at all. You say yourself this behavior hurts your feelings. That should be enough for someone that cares about you. I'm 51, if I was visiting a friend for dinner, etc., it would be hard, but I would ask her to put away her phone for dinner. I would say something like, "This time is special for me--can we unplug for dinner?" If that isn't enough, I would tell her it hurts my feelings, and could she please respect that? I think you should explain it to your daughter this way. You should also be consistent. I, too, feel annoyed and hurt when my meal companion keeps a  phone out and constantly checks it. My kids are younger (21, 18), but even my husband sometimes need reminding. Meals together are precious, and it will only be minutes before they can go spend time with someone else on IG, etc. Good luck!

    My kids are in their 30s too. They are pretty good about honoring our family rule about not having phones out at dinner. By "at dinner" I mean during the time we are actively putting food into our mouths. But ... before dinner helping out in the kitchen, after dinner hanging out around the table, and basically all other times, the phones are out. My phone-obsessed husband does it too ("hold on - let me google that" he will say in the middle of a conversation). It is hard to have a conversation with someone who is looking at you for 5 seconds and then looking down at their phone for 5 seconds, back to you, back to their phone, ad nauseum. It feels like the olden days of TV, where everyone gets up and leaves during the commercials. You're the TV. The clear message they are transmitting is: "You have my attention while you're saying something interesting, but I'll be doing something else when you start getting boring." But they do not think this is the message they are transmitting. This is standard operating procedure in their peer group. It's normal, and not considered rude.

    So, you have to let them know that "some" people, maybe only YOU and this one other mom who posted on BPN, think it's rude, and it hurts our feelings, and then explain why. You can really only say this to your child or your spouse. (I have adult friends who do the phone thing, and I can't really say anything to them because I value the friendship and don't want to cause a ruckus -  I just try to be extra interesting when I'm talking to them. ;-)  My husband will pull his phone out the instant he gets a text, like when we're in the middle of a walk or a hike. I'll stop and say something sarcastic like "Oh, I see you have an important work call. Let's stop and have a phone break."  And I take out my phone too and pretend to be very engrossed.  He'll say "Oh no no no - it's just so-and-so letting me know about such-and-such" and I'll say "Not at all! It's fine! We can stop, no problem!" and then he will turn off his text notifications and put the phone back in his pocket and we carry on. I'm aware I should not use sarcasm but statistically it does work better for me than pleading or asking nicely, so this is what I do. Your mileage may vary!

  • Hello, I am sure this isn't a new question...but an updated answer is sought. We are finally admitting to ourselves that we need to get our almost 6th grader a phone (maybe a used iPhone). We don't want her to have access to much else other than the texting function, phone calls, podcasts, and limited internet. No social media of any kind, no Tiktok, etc. Of course, this is a super slippery slope because just with access to the internet, she will have access to many of these things (including YouTube). So, knowing many families out there have dealt with this for a number of years now, what hard rules/limits/philosophies do you have that you have found that work in your families? What tech solutions/apps/parental controls software would you recommend? We know having an ongoing dialogue about all this with our daughter is super important...we just want to *try* to start off on the right foot. Thanks for any advice you have.

    My rising 8th grader got a phone in 5th grade -- a very unexciting flip phone. That's what he still has, and so far, so good. He complains and finds it embarrassing, but basically, I've told him that it's not up for discussion until high school (and even then, maybe not). The flip phone allows phone calls and texts (he finds it very clumsy for texting, and that's actually the main source of his complaints), and that's all he needs for now. I am 100% certain he could not handle the inevitable distractions of having any kind of internet ability. Also, he doesn't go to King, but when I went to a King info session when we were preparing for the move to middle school, the principal begged the parents *not* to give their kids smart phones, saying that they just were not ready -- and my observations of my own kid make me think she's right. Moreover, the flip phone I got him is (hilariously) military grade and has survived everything he has dished out -- including being flung off the top of our moving car when he put it up there while we were loading the car and then forgot about it. We found it later that day, in the gutter, no worse for the wear. No smart phone could do that!

    Our son got an iPhone in 8th grade. We have all our iPhones set up for Family Sharing in Apple. That allows you to set up phones of minors such that they need permission from one of the adults before they can install an app. If our son wanted a new (free) app, my husband and I would get a notification on our phones. One of us had to approve the request before our son could install it on his phone. Family sharing also lets you share paid for music and apps.

    Hi. I replied to a similar question a month ago! My child is now a successful college student and has had some form of smart phone since middle school. You need no restrictions or contracts or controls. Get your child a current iPhone that can connect to your iCloud. Then, you will be sharing photos, find my, apps, and contacts. Let your child learn to self-regulate first before worrying about controls and restrictions.

    The only problem we had (3 kids) is discovering one of them staying up all night on the phone watching videos of other kids playing video games. So you might want to have a rule about where the phone is at night. Everybody in the house could park their phone in the same place overnight for charging.  Middle school is when kids start to be more independent so I think it's not helpful for their maturity and growth to have too short a leash. 

    I will suggest rethinking "needing" to get her a phone. I have a rising 6th grade girl and no way is she getting her own phone. She has monitored/limited access to a wifi-only Iphone at home, and her school device during the school year. There is no need to give her a phone, with all the sense of entitlement that implies; it will be very hard to limit access. She has friends same age who are online all hours of the day and night (seriously, 11pm, midnight...) as we can see on the text threads. It ends up taking over their waking hours. If she needs contact for afterschool pickup, you can get her a smart watch or similar, which is really really curtailed access.

    I also have a son who is a rising 8th grader, and he got a flip phone last summer (between 6th and 7th grade). Amazing how little he uses it, when we thought he "needed" it.

    I understand your hesitation about getting your child a cell phone. In the end you will find it is the smartest thing you’ve ever done. Middle schoolers become more independent. They go places with friends after school. You want to be able to get in touch with them. Especially important for you is to learn to text because that is the main way they communicate. The boundaries I had were: do not ever use it during the school day, never at the dinner table, leave it downstairs when you go to bed, finish your homework before too much chatting. Not all kids become obsessive phone users. Your child is growing up, now is a good time to help them negotiate issues like managing phone use.

    The one thing I’m really glad I did is set a strict rule about plugging the phone in outside their bedrooms at night. A lot of kids are on their phones very late into the night even on school nights —I can hear my kids’ phone pinging when they’ve forgotten to silence them— and I don’t think it’s healthy. 

  • Hello.

    We're about to purchase a used iPhone for our eldest kid, a rising 8th grader. We know to check with reputable places like AT&T (our cell carrier) and Apple, but are there other places to check out...or avoid?

    What restrictions or controls do you recommend we install? Our child is not yet in to social media (hooray!) save for Discord.

    Are there other things we should think about or know (things you wish you'd known or thought about) prior to gifting the phone?

    Thank you!

    An overwhelmed, non-techie parent

    I've had good luck buying them used from a couple of different ebay vendors. Here is a link to the one we used last: http://www.ebaystores.com/cellularplasa 

    Our whole family is happy with the iphone 6s model, which you can buy for a little over $100 at this point. Then if it drops, gets lost, etc., not a problem!

    Hi. I am the parent of a successful college senior. I have never used phone or screen restrictions, controls, or limits with her (or for that matter, with halloween candy or other popular items on which that parents frequently impose limits). We are, however, still on the same icloud account; when she was younger I could get an idea of what she was up to based on her photos and google searches. Now, I feel that because we are on the same "find my," that either of us could be located in the event of an emergency, and when she was younger and needed a ride, that I would know where to find her or if I am late to pick her up, that she knows how far away I am. I do suggest you put your child on your iCloud account. Why do you feel controls are needed anyway? Most kids are truly able to self-regulate and the ability to self-regulate serves them better in the long run.

  • WaitUntil8th

    (7 replies)

    We're looking for a middle school that will have a supportive parent community when it comes to delaying use of the smart phone for kids. It's difficult for the kid unless there are a sufficient number of other kids in her class who are also not on the smart phone. Any middle schools out there where families are pledging with WaitUntil8th.org? 

    Two years ago, I responded to a question here on BPN asking what parents wished they had done differently regarding electronics.  Here is my Aug 2017 response.

    My daughter was the last person in her 8th grade to get a cell phone (really!).  I thought it wasn't necessary, as I wasn't concerned about safety.  I had read all the media about kids using phones too much.  Now I think that was a mistake.  It cut her off socially from events (because people couldn't reach her) and ongoing chats.  If I had it to do over, I would get her a phone when 50% of her peers had one (not 95%).  When she got a phone, she used it responsibly.  I got my son a phone at the beginning of 7th grade. Our kids charged their phone overnight away from their bedrooms so their sleep was not disturbed.  They were all for it. We told our children that we would track them if we felt it was necessary, but it rarely was (and usually because the cell phone had been misplaced.) Cell phones are the basis for children's social lives.  They are necessary for the last minute arrangements that dominate teenage meetings.  My daughter keeps in touch with friends that don't live locally, and these relationships have enhanced her life.

    I applaud you for waiting until 8th.  I waited until the end of 8th grade for my now junior and freshman in high school to get a phone and plan to do the same for my sixth grader. I think no matter where your kid goes to school, the pressure will be hard to give in.  I had a much harder time with my daughter than my son BUT she now (somewhat) realizes that we saved her from a lot of grief, distraction, and heartache because she was not constantly drawn to her device.  She read a ton when she had down time rather than scrolling through social media posts.  My son says he likes the freedom of not being answerable all the time as well.  While it is hard to resist the social pressure and nagging from our kids, I'm glad that we did it.  Middle school can be really hard on kids and IMHO smart phones take away their ability to separate themselves from the social pressures at school.  My kids just used our phones occasionally to check in.  #staystrong

    Hello, our daughter goes to Montera Middle School and does not have a smart phone (she is currently in 7th grade). She has a Nokia candy bar phone that only does text and phone calls, which serves our needs.

    I am curious about your assertion that this will be difficult unless other kids do not have a smart phone and that you need a supportive parent community in order to implement this in your household. I don't think this is the case. Our daughter is very opinionated and can lobby with the best of them but we set very clear expectations with her starting in about 4th grade when her peers started getting smart phones (!!) that she would not be getting a smart phone until we decided as a family that is was the right time. This may not be until high school, or 9th grade. We have not decided yet but I don't think she'll be getting a smart phone next year, so we are #waitbeyond8th at this point. 

    There are so many other factors that do and should go into you finding the right middle school for your child that I would urge you not to get hung up on this. I don't think you will find any school administration that would endorse the use of smart phones for students (for most of them, students having smart phones is a major struggle). We have had unconditional support from teachers and I think a lot of admiration from other parents for having taken a different path. No other parent or child has tried to talk us out of our approach. If you are reliant on other parents upholding your values, you may be looking for some time on this, and on other issues. The bottom line is that values need to originate at home and your reasons for those values are enough. 

    Stay strong!  We're waiting until at least high school to give our kids phones (they're in 6th and 8th grade now, and among the last at their school without phones). While I do worry about my kids being excluded, I look back over the past two years of my 8th grader's life and think that he's had MONTHS of time doing something other than texting and scrolling -- playing outside with friends, reading, practicing his instrument, talking to us, etc.  While I very much hear other parents' concerns about kids needing to learn how to use phones responsibly, or needing to get ahold of their kid, I hear more often them complaining about how maddeningly difficult it is to set limits, remind the kid countless times to put their phone down, spend a ton of time reading through their kid's text history in search of something, and worry endlessly about the effect of social media on their kid's self-esteem.  I'd much rather deal with the downside of not having the phone than the downside of having the phone.  Kids are getting more and more isolated from each other as people, and we as adults need to help them build their muscles around human interaction.  The phone gets in the way of all that.  And, if you're at all worried about your kid's executive function skills (e.g. forgetting to turn in assignments in that they've completed, not taking responsibility for simple things around the house), just remember, the phone is getting in the way of your kid's ability to do those things!  There's plenty of research backing up both, and I suspect that 10 years from now, we'll wonder why in the world we thought it was a good idea to give preteens and teens phones.  Worry less about finding a supportive school -- rather, look for the ways in which you see phone-free panning out as more positive for your kid's development and growth, and hold strong to those!  Good luck!

    My daughter is a young 6th grader and is attending a stand alone middle school.  We opted to give her an apple watch and it has been great!  It is cell phone enabled so she can make/receive calls and texts, but there is no camera or internet access and we control the apps that are on it.  She feels connected to her friends and to us, I can see where she is, she likes to see her steps and she does not feel isolated from her peers (several kids at her school have the same).  It is not a hand held smart device, has no games (some of the other kids do have games but we have opted for none), but she loves it.  Someone with older kids years ago suggested the best thing to do is to consider teaching them how to use devices to help them navigate the world before they stop listening and think they know everything.  My daughter knows she won't have a phone until her Freshman year (or until an earlier time warrants) and she is fine for that for now.

    I was one of those parents who put off giving my child a cell phone until I realized that a middle schooler is much more independent. They go off with friends all over town, they take public transportation, they make plans with friends after school. I got my son a cell phone for safety purposes. If there is an earthquake or a fire or some similar emergency and I don’t know exactly where he is or how to reach him then that is just plain dangerous. You can negotiate the type of phone, set boundaries about apps but I think every independent child should have a cell phone (and yes it is more convenient for us when we can get a hold of them!)


     My oldest  child is 18.  She had a smart phone with no restrictions starting in 7th grade.  I feel this was one of my biggest parenting mistake with her.  My second is in 10th grade and has had a phone for voice, text, music, maps and camera since 6th grade.  She is the only kid in her high school class without access to social media on her phone.  She does have instagram, tic toc and Snapchat on my phone and usually uses those apps on my phone about 20 minutes/day.  She does not like this and asks frequently to have apps on her phone.  In a very lucid moment after 9th grade she told me she was glad she did not have social media on her phone in 9th grade because she saw how many problems it caused with her friends.  She is a VERY social kid and not having these apps on her phone has not slowed her down.  With an iPhone, you can use parental restrictions with a password to manage everything on your kids phone.  I actually believe that social media use for girls can reduce live social interactions.  Given the research linking social media use in girls to depression, anxiety and increasing rates of suicide.  I plan to continue with this plan and am very happy I have done so.

  • My 15 year old with ADHD and a mood disorder is addicted to her phone -  forgoing meals, sleep and bathing when she really gets going; yelling and screaming when we remind her it's time to put it away.  We've discussed the physical and mental health consequences with her.  We've set limits and made rules.  We take the phone away when she doesn't comply.  But, the process of physically taking the phone feels like we're teetering on the edge of violent disaster.  She had a very traumatic childhood (she's adopted) and gets easily triggered.  I have Verizon Smart Family App on her phone but the time limits haven't been working, either because the App doesn't work very well, or because she's learned how to disable it, or both.  Does anyone have a recommendation for a good app?  I'd like to be able to to cut access to the cell network and our home network at certain hours of the day.  I can unplug our router if necessary so cutting access to the cell network is my major goal.  It's such a frustrating and disheartening situation.  Thanks for your help.

    I have an adopted teen also with the same challenges. This is maybe not the advice you’re looking for but I suggest taking the phone away altogether. A kid with ADHD, and a mood disorder, and adoption issues to deal with does not need phone limits. She needs to be spending almost 100% of her time at home in the presence of her family, feeling the love of her family. She’s not doing anything useful at all with the phone. Even though she will almost certainly tell you her connection with friends through her phone is her only joy in life, I would not believe it. It’s much more likely that social media is adding to her problems. Also—many adopted kids have attachment issues and access to phones (electronics of any kind really) make it nearly impossible to help teenagers with those issues. 

    Taking it completely away will be a short-term nightmare for you but there is so much to be gained in the long run. 

    Hugs to you. It’s a long hard road we are on. 

    We tried a variety of apps, but my son (also with ADHD) was able to find ways around all of them with the help of YouTube. What finally worked was turning off data to his line through the AT&T website as needed, turning off our WiFi as needed, and getting a "kitchen safe" (on Amazon) that every phone in our house goes into at 10PM each night. I have to say that the safe has made the biggest difference, since he's also not able to take his phone out in class during the school day without it being confiscated. We tied his compliance with the safe to the continued availability of the phone during the day, and since we're all doing it, it made it a little bit easier for him to handle. He can still listen to his music through bluetooth headphones, but there is no texting, gaming, etc. at night. Sleep makes a big difference to the rest of the day, and he doesn't feel singled out by us trying to confiscate his phone every night while we still have ours. Good luck!

    I'm so sorry you are experiencing this. As someone who has walked this road, I can tell you it's a tough one. My child is now 19 years old. For us, limits did not work, he always found a way around them. He just got sneakier and sneakier, and when all else failed, he simply got phones from friends and/or used the free wifi that seems to be available everywhere including in our home thanks to neighbors who do not password protect their wifi. How teenagers have access to phones they can give to friends, I have no idea. But I can tell you, the vast majority of social networking teens use do not require cell signal or network. We also had violent outbursts including the smashing of a phone with a hammer rather than handing it over (one from a friend). As you might imagine, this was not our only discipline issue.

    My suggestion is to get good family therapy in place. It's likely this will not be your only behavior / control issue. An app won't solve the short term problem or deeper issues. You might also look into The Parent Project (https://parentproject.com). Unfortunately, I found out about this too late to be of help for my family, but I've heard great things about the program.

    Good luck, and do something kind for yourself today.

    Verizon Smart Family has been working pretty well for me with time limits, but if it isn't for you,  you could pay a bit more to get the feature of shutting down the internet. You can also temporarily disable her phone from the cell network by using a feature that says you are away and want to temporarily close service on the phone.. I would talk to the people at Verizon so you know all your options. If that doesn't work, you could try other apps, like quostodio.

    There's an app about growing trees https://www.forestapp.cc/ which kind of game-ifies not using your phone. You grow a bigger tree for a larger amount of off-screen time. I personally didn't find it useful even on myself, but some of my friends recommended it to me. 

    This is the original poster.  Thanks for your messages.  I appreciate the tips and it's nice to hear from other people that got through this situation.   As people understood this isn't an isolated issue, but it does aggravate other things to an almost unbearable point.  

    Also, I wanted to question the idea that we "give her some space".  Our daughter's behavior is pretty extreme. If allowed she'll avoid sleeping, bathing, eating (to the point of weight loss), even drinking water or using the bathroom (let alone exercising, going outside or seeing people in person).   She's getting headaches and says she feels more confused.  She's becoming angry to the point of throwing and breaking things.  She always snaps and often swears at us if we even say hello to her when she's using her phone.   And her whole mental outlook improves when she goes for a few hours without electronics.  I'm being told by her core therapy team that she needs more limits rather than more space.    However, as well as from the poster below, I've heard the opposite suggestion from another therapist.   Could this be true?   Has anyone out there tried the sink or swim method with positive results?    To be truthful it's pretty unlikely I'll try it but I'm interested to hear from others.

    I am a physician and had a patient with similar issues who became actively suicidal.  Got admitted to the hospital, inpatient involuntary hold, etc.  No electronics during this time.  Finally was released, returned to school, and once settled the parent decided to allow the teen to use a phone for 1 hr/day.  The teen declined.  S/he realized it was using the phone that caused the suicidality and it was this drastic chain of events that finally allowed the realization that it needed to stop.  So cold turkey was the cure.

    I'm sorry that you are experiencing this. Your daughter reminds me of an example given by Richard Freed in his book "Wired Child" - I wonder if you've heard of him? We had him speak at our school and it was a very good presentation - he does therapy in this area - perhaps you could consult with him? There are also treatment centers to help:

    • Internet and Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA): A 12-step, fellowship program that aims to help those addicted to technology recover from their affliction. Members share their experiences and provide support to one another.
    • Restart Center.
      • Center for Digital Technology Sustainability.
      • 8-12-week program disconnected from digital media (i.e., internet, gaming, cell phone use).
      • Helps you build a plan for the future, allows you to work closely with peers, coaches, and counselors to reconnect with life.
    • Morningside Recovery.
      • Has locations in Texas, California, and Arizona.
      • Specializes in dual diagnosis of nomophobia–the fear of being without your mobile device–and another mental illness, such as anxiety.
    • Camp Grounded.
      • Is similar to a summer camp for adults.
      • Consists of a digital detox and interactive activities.

    Wishing you the best.

    I attended a medical conference w/ my husband who is a Farmily Practice MD at John Muir.  I'm in Public Health and direct Parents for a Safer Environment.  this was the first of its kinds in the U.S. where researchers from all over the world gathered to share their research and present to physicians.

    We learned that there are thousands of peer reviewed and published research that links exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and wireless 

    devices to symptoms that are measurable such as loss of melatonin and raised blood pressure.  Some common symptoms include sleep disorder, skin issues, irratibility, short-term memory loss, heart and pulmonary problems, among many others.  There's evidence that MS, Alzheimer's and many other chronic and rising illnesses are linked to EMR exposure.  It's not surprising since the research is showing damage at the ceullar level. If our cells are damaged, our hormones and in turn our organs will not function properly.

    Children who go on a wifi diet improve their school performance, behavior, and health conditions.  If you want more info, there are active community members

    working to prevent 5G from coming into the community and parents will have no control over turning off the wifi.   In our home, we decided to

    hardwire our internet, get rid of the cordless phone (one of the highest sources) , and now my husband puts his cell phone on airplace mode whenever possible.  For more info, e=mail me and I will send you links to some websites... plan to have some of the info uploaded into the www.pfse.net website soon on the menu labeled: electromagnetic radiation. 

  • Getting rid of smartphone?

    (13 replies)

    Our daughter, now a young adult (not yet independent), is considering getting rid of her smartphone. While part of me thinks this could be great, part of me is worried that she’d be getting rid of something that has the potential to keep her safe. Admittedly, emergencies happen infrequently (and hopefully never), but I’ve always considered having the phone a huge advantage for situations where one is lost, in danger, etc.   I certainly find it reassuring to be able to contact her fairly easily as well. 

    While I don’t disagree that cutting down on smartphone use (and screen time in general) could benefit many of us, I think I’m more concerned about the potential loss of safety. Also, couldn’t she just train herself to use it less, if its ubiquitous presence is getting to her?

    What do other parents think?

    I think you should have a discussion with her. She is an adult and will be making her own decisions. The best you can hope is that she will listen to you. Tell her about your worries, fears and hope. Talk to her about the pros and cons. Admit that this is a decision that is not etched in stone and can change. And let it go. 

    Hi, there. One thing you haven't shared here is WHY she is considering getting rid of the phone. Is it that she is concerned about her own screen addictions? Does she want to replace it with an old-school phone?

    A smart phone is an extremely useful tool - google maps in particular springs to mind. Being able to call the police wherever you are. Taking photographs in key situations.

    Two possible compromises, depending on her intent: get rid of all of the social media apps - just dump them. Right after my daughter got her first smart phone, she found herself obsessed with Instagram, etc. She jettisoned them all, and hasn't used them since. And she could go back to the old style phone.

    What about switching to a "dumb phone"? There are a variety out there designed for kids (or adults who don't want the distraction of a smart phone) who just want basic talk and text capabilities. Then she'd still be able to have the safety net and communication, but not the apps and screen time.

    I understand your concerns; however, I also applaud your daughter for considering this step. She seems fairly self-aware of what she wants to self-regulate. Perhaps there's a way to support her choices as an adult, while addressing your concerns for her safety.  Consider having an open ended conversation with your daughter: This is a brave step you're considering and I applaud your independent thinking. I worry about your personal safety and how you might get help in the event of an emergency.  I would be devastated if anything happened to you, particularly if it were because you weren't able to call for help.  How might we balance your desire to ditch the smartphone with my concerns for your personal safety? See what she suggests, and encourage more from her, then ask if she's open to a suggestion you have. It will be interesting to see what comes out, and she may invest in the problem solving - collaboration instead of arguing.

    A couple of things you might consider:

    Do an experiment of a set period of time, perhaps start with a week, where her smartphone is turned off and locked away and see how it goes.

    Consider a stripped down phone - an old-fashioned flip phone, or a Simple Smartphone (www.simplesmartphone.com), or similar.

    Letting go and respecting an emerging adult's decisions is hard work.  Good luck.

    She definitely doesn't *need* a smartphone. The only safety issues I can think of can be easily remedied. First, since there are no longer any working pay phones, she can carry just a regular inexpensive phone, like a flip phone, for emergencies and such. Second, like we had to do when we were younger she can carry maps in her car or in her bag in case she gets lost. Hopefully fold up maps like we used to get at AAA are still being printed! Other than that, there is nothing that important on a smart phone.

    If she wants to go cold turkey I can understand that. When our son was a young middle schooler we got him a flip phone. Perfect for emergencies and rudimentary texting. She could do that. The only other concern I would have is that we have gotten so used to having maps on our phones that we don't carry them in our cars anymore. You might suggest that she make sure she has a collection of maps. I don't think we even have any city maps in the house anymore. 

    Of course I don't know all the circumstances of your daughter's inclination to ditch her phone, but I would RACE to embrace her impulse. This is a great opportunity to learn from her what facets of her smartphone feel like they have the capacity to do her harm or take over her life--you'll get all kinds of insight into what she's going through. And if you're concerned for her safety and want to be able to reach her, suggest replacing her smartphone with a "dumb" phone such as a Jitterbug or flip phone--you'll be able to call or text her, but she won't have access to Snapchat or other social media apps, or endless YouTube video time, whatever it is that may be alluring or troubling to her. If she has a feeling that her phone is addictive, then no: She can't just train herself to use it less. It's a whole lot easier to stop buying ice cream than it is to fight the temptation to eat it at 10pm when it's sitting right at hand in the freezer. 

    I think that it's great that your daughter would like to get rid of her smartphone.  I think that it's hard to have the self-control not to be obsessed with them; once you have one, they are hard to resist. If she wants to go smartphone free, I'd support her! Why not get her an old "dumb" phone.  Until recently this is what our family still used, and it provides the option of being able to call and stay in touch when needed without all the distractions of a smart phone.  I'm sort of sorry that we all upgraded.  We are still all light smart phone users in the scheme of things compared to other people, but I find myself more tied to it than I want to be and am not sure that it adds to the quality of my life compared to my old flip phone.  Good for your daughter for bucking the technology trend! 

    I think the key word here is *considering*. I think she’s either going through a phase or trying to get attention. Let her live without a smartphone and see how long she lasts. I give her 2 weeks max. 

    You don’t say how old she is but I would trust her in this for sure. I view smart phone addiction and related depression and lack of concentration that is associated with it as a much bigger risk than not carrying s phone in case of an emergency. Everyone has a phone so if she needs one she can ask someone to make a call for her. I plan to delay giving my son a phone for as long as possible. 

    I got rid of my own smartphone and the only regret I have is that no one is making really nice dumb phones at this time. I would happily pay hundreds of dollars for a nice feature phone with no internet or wifi access. I use a Cricket phone that cost me $25 and is $25 a month for unlimited talk and text. It's there in emergencies, but I am free from the nagging ever-present urge to check my email one more time. The fact is that screens and smart phones are addictive. They trigger the dopamine receptors in our brain, and if someone feels they have enough of a problem to warrant quitting smart phones altogether, just training herself to use it less is about as likely as an alcoholic training himself not to want that extra drink. For me, getting rid of the smart phone has been a huge relief and I felt like I was finally taking the shutters off and seeing the world the way I did before the internet became omnipresent. I would be proud of your daughter for recognizing the problem and being willing to buck the current trends in search of a saner, more present world.

    I want to thank everyone who responded so thoughtfully to my query about our daughter’s wanting to get rid of her smartphone - I appreciate the feedback and suggestions. I didn’t mention (but should have) that she does want to carry a “dumb” phone. The safety aspect I was thinking of with the smartphone was not only the ability to make a call, but if you need to dial 911, I understand you can be found that way if it’s a smart phone?  I’m possibly going too far with my thoughts here - will sheepishly admit I watch far too much true crime...(hanging head). As far as why, yes, it is her screen time, and the way it takes up so much of her life. Several years back, she (of the 2000 FB friends) gave up her Facebook account, and has been very happy with that decision. I think it’s mostly being constantly bombarded with texts / having to pay attention to it every waking hour...  Again, really appreciate everyone’s thoughts. 

    Hi! first, bravo your daughter is thinking about ditching her smartphone. Our kids (12+13) are not allowed to have a smartphone however, they have cheapo flip phones so we can call and text them. It is used for only for the purpose of communication. Text/call when they arrive somewhere, if plans change, meet me out front, dont forget xyz.. etc. It works great for our purposes and avoids all the negative aspects of having a smartphone. good luck!

  • Do/Would you read your child's texts?

    (12 replies)

    I recently had a huge to-do with my family about reading our kids' texts. They have flip phone only so no instagram, etc. They text, of course. I have always maintained that children have no right to expect privacy and that parents have a responsibility to know what is going on in their lives whether kids decide to talk or not. My daughter (13) still shares all, but my son (15) is silent about anything but what's on UTube today. He usually deletes his texts anyway, but once in a while he leaves his phone unattended by accident. They are both good kids with OK grades and no serious drama. They and my husband feel strongly that reading texts breaks trust and makes them less likely to open up. They think texts should only be read if there are "warning signs" that something is going on that needs adult intervention. I think that is often too late.

    What do you think?

    As a parent of 2 in middle school and high school, I absolutely believe it is necessary for parents to check their kids things. There are so many things that they are probably not saying  that they are experiencing in their lives and at school. I don't think being a good kid has anything to do with knowing and understanding and possibly needing to address some issues or concerns that may arise. When we gave our kids their phones and anything that we give them for that matter it is with the expected belief that your things could be gone through. There are so many things being presented to our kids that to them may seem harmless and no big deal and yet it is. I don't advocate going thorough their items constantly but as a parent I believe sometimes it's necessary. I'm curious as to why your son is deleteing his texts if he is just communicating with his friends innocently .. Anyhow.. my two cents

    I think that maintaining good communications with your child requires that they trust you. 15 year olds are often taciturn; that is not a reason to snoop. Neither I nor my spouse ever, nor would we ever, read our child's texts, diary, etc. I felt she was entitled to privacy, and I she has often told us that our trust was a major factor in her willingness to talk to us as an adolescent (she just turned 21). I also felt that if I read her texts I was invading the privacy of the people with whom she was texting. One may feel that their child does not have an expectation of privacy, but does that extend to anyone they know, whether or not those persons are minors? (And before responding that you have the right to know with whom your child is communicating, I note that this does not address the question of the privacy of others.)

    Teens (including 13s) are entitled to privacy, unless there is a real reason to believe something life threatening is going on. I understand the impulse to want to know everything (especially with taciturn boys), but your job as a parent of teens is to support them becoming independent, self sufficient adults. I believe you will have a closer relationship with those adults if you don't pry so much now and invade their space that they are dying to make the break. Spend time with your kids doing things they want to do with you. You might find your son shares more spontaneously when you don't try to force it. Especially, in the car where he's sitting next to you rather than facing you - try it.

    Behind all privacy discussions are the question of whether the person had an expectation of privacy. My position on reading kids' text is that it reinforces the idea that no one should ever text anything that they wouldn't want their parents, teachers, or ??? to read. Filtering their on-line engagement through this prism will protect them. So, while I rarely read my kids' social media accounts (several adults are friends on Instagram and would inform me if they saw anything troubling) or phones, it is my official position that I can. If I gave them any reason to believe that their accounts or phones were personal, then they would have a reason to object. There is too much potentially harmful on-line and on phones for me to be completely hands-off. If they want absolute privacy, I'll get them a journal. I mention stories or news articles about adults having problems with things that they shared digitally with an expectation of privacy as well as those about young people having problems arising from social media, screenshots of private communications, etc. I grant you, this is a lower standard than believing I have a right/responsibility to know what's going on in their lives -- I'm sure there's plenty I don't know -- and most of what I know is because they tell me or I figure it out the way parents have for generations, because kids aren't as discrete as they think they are. 

    Wow. Expecting to read all their texts to friends? I've always been a pretty tuff mom, but that seems to go way too far in my opinion. That is their private space. But...I they leave their phone unattended and you happen to see a text now and then......that's fine in my opinion.

    I worked as a teacher with a male teacher who was caught in an FBI sting luring teenage girls to motels for sex. Parents need to always know what’s going on. You have to be aware. 

    No, I would not read my child's texts because I believe as they're approaching adulthood, they deserve to have some control over their lives. When I was in high school oh so long ago, before the internet, my boyfriend at the time would write me snail mail letters and my Dad would open them up and read them. It was a huge invasion of privacy and he used a similar excuse you are using, that as the adult he can do as he pleased. I had to tell my bf at the time to let me know ahead of time if he wrote me something and then for the next couple of days I would be vigilant and keep an eye out for the mailman so I can snag my letter first. By reading his texts without permission, you cultivate resentment and distrust. 

    In our family we tell our kids that we will periodically review texts, etc. and we do, although I plan to taper this off as they get older.  We want our kids to develop a sense of the non-private character of texts/emails/posts.  All it takes is a forward and everyone will see it, so it's really not private.  We encourage them to use phone calls/facetime/face-to-face conversations and journaling for true privacy and we don't invade their privacy in those spaces.  The bottom line is, nothing on the internet is really private, and they might as well learn that as early as possible.  Just read the news if you want proof.

    I think it is fine to read their texts as long as you are honest about it. Just tell them that you read them. And then it is up to them to monitor what they and their friends text.

    It is only an invasion of privacy if they expect that it is a private space. 

    Yes, read your child's text messages, especially if you have a child you are concerned about.  My oldest daughter was a difficult and somewhat wild kid, that was before cell phones but I read her diary.  I didn't scold her for what I read but it helped me to direct my conversations with her to help her through what she was going through.  When I read, she had sex,  I took her to Kaiser and put her on birth control immediately.   I would never tell a kid that I was doing this because what benefit would there be.   This is not an invasion of privacy, it's good parenting!!!!!  Also,  know their friends.  I often got information about my daughter through her friends.  I never disclosed to her that her friends told me but it helped me to guide her.  She is a 32 year old successful woman.  She has expressed to me that all that I did was necessary and she's grateful I stayed on top of her.

    If there is an atmosphere of general trust and good faith behavior, such that no one has any reason to hide anything, then it seems like it would not be an issue and they wouldn't care if you read their messages. However, if they know you are reading their messages and have reason to want to hide the activity, they will do everything they can to conceal and cover their tracks. It all depends on the kid. When my kids got computers and phones, we told them that as parents we had the right to total access.  Even so, they changed passwords and concealed their activities and were angry when we wanted to exercise some level of access.  Both kids were definitely engaging in questionable behaviors (my daughter sending and receiving nude photos and my son accessing porn or downloading first person shooter apps, explicit music, etc).  I tried implementing rules and limits, and wanted to use parental controls, but in those days, they didn't exist or were difficult to manage. My son figured out how to highjack and bypass them all.  My husband decided he didn't want to deal with monitoring and thought we should be more "trusting", even with evidence that there was reason not to trust. I eventually gave up and decided that if something bad happened, they would have hard lessons to learn. One summer when my daughter was 18, I was aware of some of her activities because I saw mirrored text messages coming through on an iPad. I never revealed this to her because I didn't want her to lie to me and then make changes so that I would lose access to the information.  I figured it was better to know something than nothing and then find ways to bring up cautionary discussions in general ways so as to impart some parental advice.  Over the years, I have read some of their diaries, which my husband is adamantly against.  While I am not proud of doing this, there is a very strong draw to do it because of my desire to know and understand what is going on in their lives, how they are feeling in ways that they would never tell me.  And as long as what they are writing about is not life threatening or seriously dangerous, I will not act on the information.  It would have been nice if we could had developed better communication when they were younger - would their behavior been different?  If their behavior had been the same, I am not sure they would have shared more.  I really struggled with how to have a good communicative relationship with them and be an authoritative parent who set limits for strong willed adolescents.  When I was a teen in the '70s, I lied to my parents about what I was doing, because I knew they would have freaked out, never accepted my feelings or desires. When my parents did learn of certain behaviors they objected to, their authoritarian approach created a bigger chasm in the relationship.  Parenting is difficult, personal histories, family relationships and dynamics are complicated, and everyone is different.  You do the best you can with the skills and tools you have, given the unique situation. Is it naive to believe that modern cultural attitudes and technology seem to have made parenting more difficult?

    I don't read my daughter texts (16 years old) but she talks a lot (although, I am sure, not about everything...) and I know her closest friends who are good kids.  I would do though if I feel I need to (doubts about her putting herself in danger) but I would never claim it as I right. I would not tell her if I had to read her texts and I would use the info otherwise. 

    Good luck! Parenting 2 teenagers is not easy...

  • Flip phone for middle schooler

    (7 replies)

    We’re thinking of adding a cellphone line and giving an old flip phone to our 6th grader. It has a tiny slideout keyboard and a low quality camera. This seems like a benign first device and she is excited for it. Are there any downsides (other than cost) in your experience? Alternatives?

    Start your daughter out on a disposable phone. They cost about $50 from any store i.e. AT&T, Verizon, etc. Limit the reload to $10/month, and see how she does. The phone number is not permanent, but if she does well with her limits, you can always put her on your plan with a permanent phone number. Definitely start her with a flip! good luck!

    As a middle school teacher, I would strongly recommend a phone that neither sends nor receives picture messages.  A good option is the LG True, which does have a camera but doesn't allow you to send or receive pictures (at least without a cumbersome process that involves logging into a website).  I say this because of the NUMEROUS times inappropriate pictures of a student have been texted to practically the entire school.  Even if she would never send out pictures like that herself, it might be nice to know that she wouldn't be receiving them either.  Plus, it's $25 and Cricket has a plan that gets unlimited text/talk for $25 a month out the door.  Check it out!  

    We got a flip phone for our 6th grader last year. We even had old smart phones sitting around and still opted to buy a flip phone. I think it was a good decision. He was able to communicate when necessary but wasn't tempted by games, the Internet, etc. Occasionally he needs to take my phone, for example this past weekend he went on a bike ride and wanted to be able to navigate if he got lost. But I would rather that be the exception and not the rule.

    Our oldest was in 8th grade last year. We had thoughts of not getting him a smart phone until he started high school, but so many of his friends have smart phones that certainly by the second half of the year he would have been left out of plans and conversations. So we're glad we got him one at the beginning of the year. We will also give our other two kids smart phones at the beginning of 8th grade.

    We did a similar thing with our kids. One word of caution--if the phone is old enough, it may no longer work on your provider's network--even if they still sell it on line, it may not work. The easiest way to find out is to go to your provider's store and ask. If I remember correctly, 2G is no longer supported, you need at least 3G. When I was shopping on line, I was shocked at how many phones were still being sold that were not supported any longer by ATT and I was searching for ATT flip phones! The were cool at the store and said they had a SIM card for just this purpose so I could try the phone first before they activated it. In the end, it was just easier to buy the model they had at the store. I think it was $50

    Our son got in a field trip bus accident in 4th grade. I was in a panic about not being able to reach him even though we were told all the kids were fine (they were but anytime a school bus is in an accident no matter how minor it’s a long process and police come).

    We got him a flip phone after that. He keeps it off in his backpack and has had it ever since. He’s going into 6th next year. Mostly it makes me feel better knowing he can reach me if he needs to.

    He played with it when he first got it then decided it was too clunky and since then it’s been simply a way to communicate with us. So far that’s just fine with him since he uses the iPad at home to text his cousin after school but even that use is minor. 

    I know he wants an iPhone but I don’t yet see that his friends have one. I am holding off on that as long as possible.

    A flip phone solves the issue of communication with you, but I would recommend an iPhone as soon as they start going places without an adult. When my daughter was in middle school I found out quite by accident the advantages of her having an old iPhone on my iCloud. With Find my iPhone, we can each see where the other is, which relieves a lot of potential anxiety around her waiting to be picked up somewhere and me being on the way to pick her up, or me waiting to find out if she has gotten home from school yet. As she has gotten older, I never really have to wonder where she is, and saved her from getting turned around where she didn't want to be while in San Francisco with a friend (having gotten off Bart at Civic Center and ended up in the Tenderloin instead of on Van Ness). Apparently I am the "cool mom" because I never micromanage her whereabouts while out with her friends, but really I am not that cool, I am just periodically checking Find my iPhone.

    I’m a middle school teacher. Many parents don’t want a smartphone because the distractions. I say later, even if you want a smart phone so they have more features like navigation and games at appropriate times, just get the app OurPact. Check out at ourpact.com. It’s amazing. I can choose which apps work during certain times and which are always available. I can limit her hours per day for example: 90 minutes anywhere from 4:30-7:00 between homework and dinner. Then while at school all the games, camera, texts and internet is blocked. The app even has a notification when they arrive within a certain radius of school, home, soccer whatever. So I don’t need to check my GPS or anything. Just pops us and I know she’s arrived safely. It’s android and App Store. I think I pay $6 a month for the extra features. Some are free. Worth it for better features than AT&T offers. Oh, also if they get in trouble, you can put Block until I say so or Block for 1 hour until their room is done or after a break. Or if they do homework early or dishes you can put Allow for extra 30 minutes or whatever makes sense for you. I’m a teacher and I always recommend this to concerned parents. The kids get the app called ourpact jr and it says things like: Blocked until 3:30 for “School” or Open until 6 for “Free time.” You get to name and set times. You can do different ones for the weekend too so they can play longer or later but not too late. My daughter has had it since 7th when she got a phone and is heading to high school where I hear kids just play on the phone in class. Haha. But not kids with phones blocked 8:30-4!  ;)


  • Has anyone tried therapy for their young teen with a phone addiction?  Our 14 year old son displays all the signs of true addiction, and it's affecting our family life more and more.  We'd like to have him talk to someone.  Do any therapists specialize in this situation?  Thanks in advance for recommendations.

    I'm so sorry to hear about your son's tech/phone addiction. I write and speak about children's technology issues, including addiction. I'm sorry I don't have a private practice, but I do work for Kaiser Permanente in the Bay Area if you happen to have that insurance. I can be reached through my website RichardFreed.com which also provides a number of resources.

    If you don't have KP, I could ask colleagues if they work in your area of need.

    While I can't speak professionally here, and I speak for myself and not Kaiser Permanente, general recommendations include bringing your son back into your family as much as possible, as tech addictions tend to distance kids from family. If we are going to lessen kids' use of tech, we need to help replace it with positive activities, and time with family is an important one. Also, please be mindful of your teen's safety, as unfortunately, tech addictions can be associated with kids' considering hurting themselves or others. For this reason, professional help is a good idea.


    Richard Freed, Ph.D., author of "Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age"

    I'm not sure about specializing in that particular issue, but Nick Wightman is good with teen boys. Google for his website, he is East Bay.

    I'm sorry to hear your family is dealing with such a problem. I don't have any therapist to recommend, but have you thought about severely restricting your son's access to a phone or taking it away altogether? My teen son is on his phone quite a bit, but I use an app called OurPact to remove all third-party apps from his iPhone (you could also remove texting/music/Safari etc.). My son has no access to his apps from 9 PM at night until 3 PM the next day (overnight and school days) and then again between 4 and 6 PM when I want him to be doing his homework. I am a little more lenient on weekends. All of this means that he does not have many opportunities to park himself in front of a screen.  We also do not allow him to be on his phone during meals, car rides, and during family activities. If his grades fall below a certain benchmark, the phone is taken away altogether. Just sharing some things that have worked for our family. We remind our kids regularly that having a phone is a privilege and abuse results and it being taken away.

  • Son paralyzed by the telephone.

    (7 replies)

    Remember when all we wanted to do was talk on the phone?  Oh, what a difference a generation makes.  My young adult son is completely terrified about talking on the phone. It's not a matter of stumbling or feeling awkward but of being struck nearly mute.  He wants to find an apartment but cannot bring himself to pick up the phone and call.  Has anyone else ever confronted this?  What did you do? Can anyone in this smart and connected community recommend specific therapy, a book, a program?  He tells me that role playing doesn't work because he's always conscious that mom is the one playing the stranger.  Anything?

    Many thanks, 

    Nothing but crickets

    My daughter used to refuse to talk on the phone. She started with brief voicemail messages. Ahead of time I would advise her on what to say and during the message I coached her if she got stuck. She worked her way up to live conversations. Start small and go from there. The pressure of making a good impression without the visual cues and particularly while trying to secure an apartment is daunting. Can he do the initial contact through email? That will give him the opportunity to craft his questions and/or replies without being "on the spot." As a landlord, I find email communication with prospective tenants very helpful and efficient for determining whether the rental is a good fit for them.

     Like you son, I have struggled with "phone anxiety" since I was young.  I am not exactly sure where it came from but I had some early traumatic issues surrounding phone calls (like discovering that my parents were divorcing by overhearing my dad apartment hunting. I also found out my grandfather died as I accidentally overheard my grandmother telling my mom, on the other phone line).  Nevertheless, 40+ years and I still harbour this anxiety, but have learned to cope fairly well by writing down/taking notes of what I wanted to say...  questions I needed to ask, any potential curveballs in the conversation. Basically organise it all out on paper first, like a reasearch paper.  When I hear my phone ring, I immediate grab  a pen/paper just in case I need to focus my thoughts -jot down ideas.  Although I haven't done this personally, I'm positive there are also plenty of therapists that work on similar issues of phobias/intense fears. They take it all in "baby steps "  so I'm sure this would really help him a lot also.   Good luck!  

    I could so relate to your description of your son. Before the wonders of technology, we had a phone tree set up for our soccer team. The coach would call the first person on the list to inform them of weather cancellations. That person would then call the next person on the list, and so on and so on, until everyone was informed - and the coach only had to make one call. My son's coach now just sends out a team email and posts on our team's Facebook page, so my son probably has no idea what a phone tree even is! My point in sharing this was that I would be so paralyzed to call my teammate to inform them. I hated the phone. I still don't love the phone but have managed to incorporate it into my work life. Personally, I still prefer email or texting to calling. I've read that phone phobia can be a symptom of anxiety. Maybe have him assessed with a therapist? Regardless of the diagnosis, it sounds like he could benefit from CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) to help him develop phone skills. Good luck!

    Can he talk to friends on the phone? Take baby steps from there. Call relatives. Call a catalog to place an order. Call a restaurant to make a reservation. Or maybe get a job doing customer service. Somehow it is easier if it is a required part of work.  Or, use email to rent an apartment. You don't really have to call, do you? 

    I was afraid to use the phone as a tween/teen. For me, I eventually got over it because it was the 80s and there really weren't other options, so I eventually reached the point where I couldn't avoid it, and repeated exposure eventually got rid of the panic. It seems like gradual controlled and repeated exposure is probably the key (as it is to most things phobia). Can he enlist his friends to engage in communicating by voice (gasp!)? Chit-chat calls with you (not role playing)?

    For the hard calls with strangers, it might help him to write down a script to keep him focused on the goal of the call and give him something to refer to when he gets tongue-tie. "Hello, my name is XXXX. I'm calling about the apartment listed on YYY." How many bedrooms, what's the rent, can I set up an appointment to view it, what's the address? Thank you, I will see you at the apartment at 3 pm on Saturday. He should write down the answers to his questions, since it's hard to remember anything when you are having a panic attack. 

    I'm 64 years old, and I still have to steel myself sometimes to pick up the phone and make a call that needs to be made.  I don't have any advice for your son except to tell him to gird his loins and do battle with the shyness.  He's not alone. 

    My children do not have the phone anxiety your son has, but they all much prefer to text! Among teens, texting is now the preferred method of communicating, even if they're sitting next to each other!  Can your son work around some of his anxieties by texting instead of calling?

  • I feel I am chasing a unicorn here.  Our family agrees our 11 year old daughter will need a cellphone for phone calls/texting us.  Although she loves our iPhones, she herself is ambivalent about connectivity and risk of cellphone addiction, having just seen the movie "Screenagers" with us (pretty sobering).  We'd like to add her to our AT&T Family Plan.  An old flip phone is out (too hard to text with the buttons). She'd like some basic online capacity (Google, maybe a simple little game or two) but we're all worried about the magnetic allure of online-phone time (especially when she's not at home).  We thought about passing along an old family iPhone 4S but struggle with this worry.  

    Anyone know a phone with a touch (onscreen) keyboard for easy texting, but no (or minimal) internet access?   It seems (looking at the phones on AT&T website) that anything that's not a flip-phone is automatically in internet territory.  Thanks for any suggestions.  

    Every kid is different - some kids glom on to the phone immediately and won't let it go.  Others, like our kid, never think about the phone at all, forget to take it with them, forget they can use it to text us, and never reply to our texts.  It's frustrating!  I would suggest that you get whatever phone is easiest for the family, lay down a few ground rules, and then see how it goes and adjust later as needed.  We got our son his first phone when he started middle school too, when he would be walking home by himself. We used our existing Verizon family plan and gave him one of our old touch screen phones. We soon learned that even if, after constant daily reminders, he remembered to take it with him to school, it would stay in the backpack untouched all day. He would not text us if he would be late, and he would not check for new texts from us. The ringer had to be turned off for school of course, so it stayed off, so we couldn't call him either. He is now 15 and has only this summer begun using it to occasionally text his friends. We find that we have to check his texts for him and let him know when there is something he should reply to. haha His closest friends also rarely use their phones.  They all seem to play online games on Steam which has messaging so that is how they communicate with each other.  Getting them a phone is just like all other parenting things:  you might have a problem with it and you might not! But you never know what the problem is going to be until you do it!

    The LG Extravert may be a little too simple, but it is great for texting (has a pull out keyboard) and minimal internet access (can do very very limited Google queries) and it's battery life kicks butt. I've had an Extravert and was a fan. The ZTE Z431 also seems to fit your criteria. The only issue may be whether either of these phones works with AT&T service. Good luck!

    Why do you need a touch screen? I actually find those harder to use. A flip phone with a querty keyboard is easy to text on. Here is an example. 


    You are wise to be cautious about handing a smart phone over to your daughter. We made mistakes with our daughter (now 18), and our son years when he was 11.  We gave them phones because they were commuting by train to school. I wish I could go back and do it differently! Technology has changed, and the features available to restrict access on an iPhone are better now. It's hard to impose restrictions after they have had some exposure. Definitely develop a contract about the circumstances when the phone is to be used, where it will live at night, your need to know passwords, etc. I feel like we really lost control with our daughter and didn't put enough restrictions on our son when he got his first iPhone at 11.  At least now, the iPhone 6 has a "restrictions" feature, which helps parents control content. I wish we known how put in the limits on in the beginning, because by the time we figured it out, the kids felt entitled to have access. The iPhone has a restrictions feature which allows parents to use a separate password to block access or put age restrictions on apps, like safari, explicit music, etc. It has it's problems though, and kids can change their password and lock you out even though they can't change the restrictions unless they know a separate password. I made our son use an apple ID that I controlled (which had no access to a credit card, only a first time $10 Apple gift card, and then when that ran out, he could only spend from a gift card he might receive). Controlling his Apple ID helps, because I can see what music and games he is downloading (I get an email or can go into iTunes to check), and I set up location sharing and "find my phone" so I could see where he is.  Make sure the Apple ID is different than your own, or your child will start getting your texts and content too on their phone. It takes a bit of iPhone knowledge but in this day and age, since our kids are living in this tech world, parents need to learn.  I spend a lot of time at the Apple store taking workshops, and testing things out on my own phone and computer.  Some cellular providers have "smart limits" (for a small monthly fee) which allows you to set up time restrictions for data access and get reports of who they are texting, what time, etc.  If you lay out your rules early and limit access with the restrictions feature, I think you will be in better shape.  Our son, now 14, complains bitterly about the restrictions and I wish I had established the rules earlier so it wouldn't now seem like I am taking something away instead of it just being that way from the beginning. The documentary you mentioned sounds like a great thing to have watched with your daughter. Thank you for the reference - I need to watch it with my kids!  Kids can have a whole "private" online life of communication with peers via snap chat, Instagram, and who knows what. The cat is out of the bag, especially for our 18 yr old, and we are definitely figuring out how to deal with it.

    Our son only got a smart phone a year ago as he was heading off to college. Up until then he only had a button flip phone that required the more complicated way to text. And I gotta tell you, he got lightening fast texting on those buttons! So don't let that piece dissuade you; texting would be more cumbersome but she would get fast, I promise. He liked not being tempted by internet access and we appreciated saving the $$ all those years. You could always try a flip phone for 6 months and see how it goes...

    I got my daughter an iphone 5s, which is smaller and less expensive than the newer model and then disabled the safari search engine on it. This means she cannot browse the internet. She's lobbying now to have it enabled, which I might do, since she is now 13. There are still restrictions on the phone so she cannot watch videos and other content that are adult in nature. There are ways to control it.

    Check out textnow.com. Locked smart phones, just for their plan, are very cheap. I have a plan for my son that is 18.99 a month, unlimited calls and text, and just 500mb of data, which is pretty limited and why I chose it. You can get more expensive plans with more data if you want. He can have unlimited internet at home if he connects to our wifi--and I can be around to monitor use. I can also go online to the account and see all texts he has sent. I'm very happy with it.

    Agree with the parent on the flip phone -- kids figure out how to text on those pretty quickly.  Besides, when they're still young, they tend not to notice texts anyway, so if you want to communicate with them, you have to call.  My kids got a flip phone in 6th grade. You can also set it up so that they can only call certain numbers.  The other problem with touchscreens is that they shatter too easily.  Flip phones are well nigh indestructible.

    I switched my kids to smartphones in 9th grade.  Worked out fine.  

    My younger daughter, now graduated from high school, actually just thanked me for all the internet restrictions I set up in her middle school years.  I wouldn't even let them use Google on their laptops until 8th grade--only kid friendly websites like PBSKids were open to them, and the laptops would shut down after x hours and at bedtime.  She is a voracious reader now, partly thanks to that, and feels like some of her classmates got lost in YouTube and games too early.

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Who pays for teenager's cell phone?

August 2013

OK, we pay for both of our kids' cell phone bills, under the Verizon family plan ($130 for 4 of us to talk and text). But since each kid has a smartphone (''Mom, Everyone has an iPhone!''), each kid's data plans cost $30 extra. Our cellphone bill last year came to $2400. The kids will soon start college. They threw a fit when my husband and I said that they'd be on their own with their phones - no more free cellphone service. Are we off base? - signed, nickled and dimed

It's good for them to pay their own way and helps them learn to be responsible and make healthy spending decisions. Although it's in my nature to be overly indulgent, there have been long periods in my life where I didn't have the time or energy to do so with my now-adult daughter. Kind of benign neglect, where because of my work hours she had to take care of a lot of things herself. And it was probably the best thing I did for her. She's very responsible now and takes care of business. Stick to your guns. if it's worth having, it's worth paying for themselves

Yes, it's a lot of money and teenagers seem to think it's a human rights violation to not be given a phone these days. But in reality, we wanted them to have phones so we could stay in touch with them. And one of the issues for us was keeping it fair between our two kids, who seemed extra sensitive to the fairness issue as it related to cell phones.

Here's how we handled it: For my teenage kids, we paid for a phone and service plan for calls and texts. That was enough for my daughter through high school and college. But my son wanted a smart phone, so in high school he bought that himself and paid the extra $30 a month for data (with money he earned from a summer job). Then for his high school graduation gift, we told him we would pay for the data plan while he was in college.

I liked that he sees it as a gift, and a reward for his work in high school, not as something that he's entitled to. And it worked on the fairness level because his sister had gotten a comparable amount of money toward a trip for her high school graduation gift, so she didn't feel like he was getting something that she didn't. Anon

You are absolutely not off base. This is the time when kids learn how to pay for their own expenses -- and it's still a time when screwing up will not lead to disastrous consequences (i.e. a college student who loses a cell phone plan because they fail to pay is not nearly as much a problem as a busy professional who does the same). You should totally stick to your guns, it will be beneficial to your kids in the long run. Of course right now they don't like it because they are starting to realize that not everything in life is free -- they will have to make choices between cool cell phones, gas for their car, and socializing. Such is life. Karen

Your teens were upset that they might have to pay for some of their own costs? They feel entitled to have their lifestyle supported in the manner they want? Shocking! There seems to be this expectation in today's teens that our job as parents is to endlessly give (time, money, support) and expect no responsibility on their part. Of course they should take some financial responsibility, especially as they become young adults, otherwise how do they actually learn about financial responsibility and the cost of living? How do they learn to make choices and consider what they can afford versus what they want? Unless they have substantial trust funds and will never have to budget for anything this is a great lesson. You have no obligation to provide any of this - if they want it, they can pay! Maggie

Verizon has a new plan called Share Everything that should come out a lot cheaper. Adding a line is $40 each total; that is cheaper than your child could find as an individual plan (just like adding them to your car insurance rather than them getting their own). The solution may be that you pay it because it is cheaper, then they pay you back. (PS, I don't work for Verizon) Good Luck

Yeah, my high schooler pitched a fit, too, but since he was a freshman, he pays for his own data plan out of money he earns. No smart phone, either, till he can buy it himself. We told him that a phone seems to be a necessity (especially for him to maintain any independence), but a smart phone is a luxury. We've always had this rule, though. Athletic shoes are a necessity for sports, but $180 Nikes are a luxury. So we will pay up to the value of a good quality shoe, and he has always had to pay the extra if he wanted the luxury item. Sometimes he does, sometimes he decides to go with what we'll provide. You might consider a base pay for the phone you think they need, then they pay above and beyond (but if it were me, the phone would be in their name and their responsibility, and I'd just send them the ''base fee'' I promised to cover, not the other way around where you're waiting for them to pay you back--that works for my high schooler because I have access to him daily, but if they're away at college, that could turn into a useless power struggle.) It might be hard for your college age kids to accept, but it's better late than never. Mom who never cared about the ''everyone has one'' argument

I think you need to put the cell phone in context. Look at your budget and their budget. What will you be paying for? Food, dorm, books, tuition, clothes, entertainment, travel? Do they have jobs? How much do they make? If I was going to choose one thing that the kids were responsible for paying for, it would be entertainment, not cell phones. Entertainment is definitely an extra. No one NEEDS to go to the movies. But cell phones are so useful! They are great for finding your way in an unfamiliar area. You can make lists and set up reminders. You can easily find out the weather or do a calculations. And it is so easy to send pics home to mom. I read the best idea recently. Tell the kids to get summer jobs and put the money in savings. Whatever the amount, you will match it and they can spend it on entertainment during the school year. Of course, that is only if you can afford it. Gets them motivated. Anon

I don't really know about Smart Phone plans but we can't afford one. Look into Pay as you Go phones at T Mobile and AT (and others). Once their phone numbers are not restrained by a plan, they may be able to keep the same number but pay a lot less. Hope that helps.

The deal we have had with our teenagers (and now two college students) is that we pay for the strictly ''phone'' part of the bill. In high school, if they wanted texting, they paid for it. The older one has a smart phone and he pays for the data. The middle one realized that he doesn't want to pay for the $30/month for data and will use his laptop through campus wifi. Last one (14) doesn't have phone yet but deal will be the same. We see this as part of the continuum on their path to financial independence. Good luck! Cheapskate mom

We never got our kids smart phones (they still in high school). They gave us the same line about ''everyone has an iPhone''.

We gave them a budget $50/year to pay for phone service for a pay-as-you-go cell phone (T-Mobile). That is enough for 1 call or text per day. If they want to use more, they can use their allowance to pay for extra minutes (our daughter does this because she likes to text more than her brother).

They'll be off to college in a couple of years. We are thinking of giving them a smart phone with a plan as a graduation present and pay for it through college. Hopefully it will make it easier to keep in touch with them. So there's that to think about. -Parent of Twins

I too have the verizon family plan with only phone (not even text) for my 3 daughters. I made it clear that I will pay for it as the phone is needed for emergency use only. If they want the iphones, they can pay for the phone and the extra $30 per month. Funny, no one has (2 of them are working)!

The youngest who is about to go to college is going to get a job and then pay me the $30 (let's see when that happens). The oldest who has graduated from college just recently decided that my plan wasn't good enough for her and got her own service with another company, but is still not paying for an iphone!

If they want the frills, then they should pay for them. Simple. Sensible Mom

Wow. That sounds like a lot to pay. My 14 yr old son has a $30/month no contract talk-text-data plan. We pay $20 of that; he pays the remaining $10. Our deal with him when he wanted to get an iPhone was that he would pay all the additional costs associated with it -- we would continue to pay what we paid for his old, dumb phone. Thus we pay $15/month plus we gave him an additional $5/month as a birthday present. He saved up for the phone itself and shopped around for a plan with a low monthly fee. Your kids will learn a valuable lesson by figuring out what they need, what they can afford and then trying to find a way to afford what they need. Dollars and Cents Mom

What to do about teen's iPhone addiction???

March 2013

My 14 yr old, 8th grade daughter recently got an iPhone. My husband and I told her that homework needed to be completed before she spent any time playing on her phone. She does comply with this rule but now spends most of her free time after homework doing something on her phone. Before she got her phone she used her free time to read for pleasure but that seems to have stopped which makes me sad.

Her friends encouraged her to get an instagram account and it seems to be consuming all of her time (along with texting). I have her check her phone in to me at 8:30 p.m. every time (so her friends won't wake her up with text messages). I'd like it hear your opinions about how I might encourage her to allow time for other activities beyond texting and instagram! Thanks! Karen

Give her a budget. Allow X hours (you decide together) of minutes/hours of use per day or per week, whichever is easier to keep track of. We did it with our son per day for total media hours, and then allowed him to save any unused hours for the weekend to watch TV in the mornings, or to play some extra Minecraft (his particular addiction). You could have her check the phone after the budget has been used up, or you could develop a trust system, again, whichever works better for you. another Karen

This sounds very much like my daughter who used to LOVE to read and has rarely picked up a book since getting her iPhone. It sounds like you are doing the things you can do to limit her time, but the impulse to ''connect'' with peers is something you cannot successfully overcome short of taking the evil device away (and then she will be so mad at you that she won't read anyway!). These things have such amazing capacity to entertain that you, books, and other real life experiences will be hard pressed to compete.

When we go on vacations where service is not available, my daughter returns to reading and talking and exploring, and I have to hope that as she gets older she will realize that she does not need to be in constant contact with hundreds of people at every moment of her life. All you can do is set reasonable boundaries, model the right behavior, talk to her about it, and keep your fingers crossed... --trying to parent kids in the digital age

Cell phones in middle school- how necessary?

May 2012

My daughter will be attending Montera Middle School in the fall as a 6th grader. My understanding is that the bus isn't always reliable and have been told it's a really good idea to get a cell phone, since there are no pay phones anymore if my daughter needed to reach me. My question is, should we get her the phone, and if so-- how many minutes, what about texting, etc? I was surprised that some kids at her school have had a cell phone for a few years already- one 5th grader has an iphone. That seems a bit unnecessary to me, to say the least. I don't want my daughter to not be able to get a hold of me. I also don't want to hold her back on a social level if this is how all the kids will be communicating, but we're not full of money for unlimited minutes, texting plans, etc. Any advice from parents who have navigated this path would be much appreciated- I checked the archives and there isn't anything very recent. soon-to-be middle school mom

My daughter got a cell phone in middle school for just the reasons you gave. We have a prepaid plan (Page Plus) which uses the Verizon network and costs $20 a month for unlimited texting plus 4c a minute for calls. We top it up every three months or so with $80, which gives her three months of texting and about 100 minutes of calls a month, which is all she needs. The unlimited texting is really important because that's how all her friends seem to keep in touch with one another. We'd had Verizon phones before and thought the network was good but the calling plans really expensive and much more than we needed. It's turned out that this is a far cheaper and perfectly satisfactory solution. The plan doesn't allow picture messaging or internet access, which is a plus as far as we are concerned. anon

We weren't planning on getting cell phones for our kids until they started driving, but their aunt thought they needed them to be in the ''modern'' world. So she offered to buy them phones for their birthday. What we did was sign them up for a T-Mobile ''pay as you go'' plan. That is where you buy minutes and pay for each call or text. There is no contract or monthly charge. If they run out of minutes, they can't use their phone instead of a huge bill showing up at the end of the month.

We give them a budget for minutes of $50/year. That allows them to call us a more than once/day if necessary (10 cents/minute & 10 cents/text). T-Mobile has the most generous roll-over plan. Once you have bought $100 worth of minutes, they don't expire for a whole year. As long as you add money (even $10) before the year is up, your minutes roll over. If they want to use their phone more than $50/year, it comes out of their allowance.

Here is what happened: Our daughter told her friends: ''no junk texts since I have to pay for them''. Our son doesn't use his phone that much, so he pockets the money left over from the $50. -parent of teens

What I did is give my daughter a go-phone. At has a $25 a month plan with unlimited texting. I think that is the cheapest. Make sure her phone is not able to connect to the internet or you will have a disaster on hand. That is the expensive part. I gave my kids go-phones and strict instructions to not make more than required calls to me but eventually gave in and got them texting. anon

My experience is yes for the reasons mentioned in your post. I would definately limit use and you can expand that over time. Verizon has parental controls for $5 month which I found extremely useful when my generally compliant middle schooler was getting texts from friends and couldn't not return them into the early hours of the morning. Also learned to require phone out of her room through the night, dinner, homework. HArder to enforce now that in high school but helped through middle school. Not cheap - I have my child pay for her data plan I pay phone. Pay as you go plans can be cheaper with limited use. lb

I got my son a cell phone in middle school for my own peace of mind. He was walking home and I wanted to be able to reach him. He didn't have texting at first but I wasn't using texting much then either. Now I text him a lot so I would have that. The kids won't listen to voicemails so texts are easier. ATT has parental controls where you can only allow certain numbers at certain times so your child could reach you any time but not be able to text or call other people during other hours, school hours or late at night or whatever you decide. I spot check his cell usage periodically and tighten restrictions as needed. I would avoid a smart phone because of the photos, facebook and all the other temptations. Good luck! Middle school is a time of transition and lots of trial and error for parent and child! a mom

the way we did it in middle school and currently is I got my son a Pay As You Go Phone through ATT. It is $.10 a minute and they do have text plans. $25 a month gets him unlimited text($20 a month)and $5 of talk time. But to be honest he texts ALOT more than talking so that $ usually rolls over. My son and I text eachother but if you don't want her to text,the $25 can last 3 months then will expire. The benefit is no contract and once the phone has no money, you have to refill it to use it. no surprise cellphone bill that you hear so many stories about. Target, Radio Shack and of course ATT has phones which usually you get $ to start with. $25 is not a lot for peace at mind that you can always reach/be reached by your child. anon

We were in the same position; we have a 6th grader, and chose to get her a phone for her 12th birthday, which was this past January, halfway through the school year. Yes, there is much social pressure to have a phone in middle school...my daughter begged us for one, for at least a year before she got it. But this is also an age when her middle school is farther away from home than our elementary school, and she is starting to be more independent, walking by herself a few blocks at a time...being dropped off for meetings, practices, etc., rather than me always being with her. I find it tremendously helpful to stay in contact with her. I upgraded my own phone to one with a Qwerty keyboard (like a tiny computer keyboard) that slides out, so I can text her, and most importantly, get your whole family on an UNLIMITED TEXTING PLAN! Most people send thousands of texts per month...not kidding. And kids are the biggest texters. Have fun! heidilee

Having a cell phone saves so much time and you aren't chasing around after your middle schooler. It also gives her some independence and she can let you know if her plans are changing. We have a Verizon family plan and I bought my son and daughter 2 for 1 phones at a Verizon sale. My son has unlimited texting after an episode where he racked up over 1000 extra emails in one month and it cost me $90 (most of which I took out of his allowance...good learning experience). My daughter is in 6th grade and is limited to 250 texts per month. She complains but I explain that phoning is free and she is very careful keeping track of how many texts she has used. I also have my kids pay toward their own monthly data plans. My daughter pays $25 as she is younger and has a lower allowance. My son pays the full $50. My monthly Verizon bill for the 3 of us is about $182, so about $61 per person, minus $75 for the data plans.

It really helps to be able to call the kids a few minutes out and tell them to be waiting for me outside school or cleaning up after their sleepover so they are fairly ready to be picked up. I get call from my 6th grader that she wants to walk home with a girlfriend and spend an hour or so after school. She can check in with me and I can OK it remotely (and know where to pick her up!). kathryn

It is useful to have a phone in middle school, because the schedule of activities tends to be less regular than in elementary school. Depending on the reception, texting is helpful because sometimes texts get through and calls don't. On the other hand, a middle school phone is going to get lost, or broken. So our solution was to buy the cheapest one possible. It was on the family plan, and one could slowly send texts on it, but it was the cheapest plan, and we told our daughter not to text her friends, as it was free to text us but not anyone else. It worked out ok, though the phone was lost a couple of times and then found again. anon

Hi There, soon to be middle-school mom!

Ah yes, the phone thing. My then 5th now 6th grader REALLY wanted one. Getting and keeping her phone has been contingent on grades and behavior. She's also really good about not losing stuff. The cell phone plan is something you can adjust according to need-our family plan has unlimited texting and that's what the kids really want. It's a real boon for me too as i dont hear well but can still communicate with my daughter. She doesn't take the bus and has after-school activities in multiple spots and as there are very few if any public phones around any more it's the best way for us to be in touch.

Perhaps half the kids in her 5th grade class had phones. This year they all do. yep, she needs a phone.

I have a sixth grader at Montera. Yes--they all have cell phones, and yes, it has been INCREDIBLY useful. After looking into adding a new phone to our current plan and being horrified at the cost, I learned about a wonderful, cheap alternative: A totally separate plan through Kajeet, which is just for kids and has lots of great features (parental controls, no contract, ) https://www.kajeet.com/kajeetStore/whyKajeet.do

Something you may not have considered is that the cell phone is an AMAZINGLY wonderful tool for getting good behavior out of your child--it can be taken away easily and they'll do anything to get it back! Our deal with our child is that we cover the monthly cost when she gets straight A's at each marking period. If there are any Bs, she has to pay the bill (by doing chores around the house). This is something she definitely keeps in mind when doing homework & studying for tests (''I have to ace this project...I don't want to have to pay for the phone!'') pro-phone

No, your child does not need a phone for middle school. I have an 8th grader who has done just fine without one. He borrows mine on occasional outings, but otherwise goes without. He doesn't ride public transit to school, my only criteria for giving a kid a phone this young. I know lots of kids who have them, they often are the ones who won't have a conversation with you and who stare at it whenever they can. It can be a crutch for kids and parents to avoid interaction. My kid is pretty independent and has many years to be attached to a iphone. Non-helicopter mom

My 6th grader has a cell phone because i work in SF and am sometimes late in picking her up. We always have a plan on where and when we will meet, but if i run late or BART breaks or the bus gets stuck, you bet I want to tell her to relax and i will be there. Or if it starts to rain and she wants to wait for me at the public library, then i will know. She does not use it much at all, other than for our end of school communication....now my high school Junior is another story . Mom

I missed the original post but wanted to say that we made the decision to get our youngest a cell phone in 6th grade (the oldest had to wait until high school) when she started doing more and going more places on her own. We lost track of her a couple of times after school and that was enough for us to invest in the ''electronic leash.'' It has been a mixed bag, but has been a critical tool in arranging after school pick ups on the fly. --Texting Mama

Cell phones with GPS Tracking for at-risk teen

Aug 2011

Looking for recommendations of regular cell phones -- not 'smart' phones -- with good tracking/people locator feature. I'd prefer to have an active function that would enable me to know where the phone IS in real-time, rather than passive (where it reports where it WAS). For my at- risk teen, unfortunately. Wish this weren't necessary

Android phones have this feature. Anon

Pay-as-you-go cell phone service for 5th grader

Aug 2011

We're looking for an inexpensive, rollover minutes pay-as-you-go cel phone plan for our fifth-grader, mainly for infrequent situations in which we have to communicate with him about afterschool pick-up, and things like that. The archives from 2005 list Virgin Mobile as a good plan. Have things changed in the past six years or is it still a good service? Thanks. CC

We got our 6th grader a TracFone and it works fine. They have reconditioned phones for $20, you buy minutes, use them up, and buy more. I used to have one b/f I went to full PDA, it was completely adequate. Jane

We switched from Virgin mobile, which I had used for 5 years to Boost mobile. We compared the plans and realized we would save a lot more with Boost given how infrequently we use our phone. Anon

You might want to try Metro PCS. Unlimited talk & text is $40/month. Talk/text & email is $50 /month . Texting is perfect for a teen. No commitment, no contract, but the phones are not always cheap either. Depending on what you get, you will pay $30-300. My web surfing is so slow as to be useless, but email is almost always fine. Check coverage first too. It's not great in the hills but it's generally pretty good anywhere near a fwy. Probably good enough for a teen.

Almost 13 year old texts and/or chats all the time

June 2011

My daughter will be 13 in the fall. She is a good student and has friends. She plays soccer (although is taking a break to study for her bat mitzvah) reads, and has hobbies like sewing and other crafts. However, she spends most of her free time at home texting on her phone or chatting on the computer. I am wondering what limits other parents set for these activities. I feel like it's not good for her, and it seems like a real waste of time to me. anonymous

Re texting/ computer - they do have health consequences (2+ hours a day = carpal tunnel &/or obesity) and social consequences. If you think it's too much - you're probably right. Kids need facetime with their friends in the real world more than they need gadgets. In summer, make sure she has plenty of playtime, sleepovers, and contact with her buddies - and that she reads some actual books. If she wants tech time she can earn it by practicing math or other skills on Khan Academy (it's free, it rocks!).

Give her a maximum amount of tech time per day, make it a reward, not a right If she can't leave it alone, take it away and regulate its use send her to a no-gadget camp if you can afford one, just to give her a break and see the possibilities. - plugged in to real life

I worry about this too. I am the mother who walks around campus showing the kids how to hold their phone on a flat palm and text with a flat relaxed ''paw''. Because of computer work, I had to give up piano...

Tell her this: The people that came up with texting have ZERO regard for your forming body. Your hands and tendons are going to give out and therapy will be very expensive. It is only a matter of time before someone is held acountable and the medium will be replaced. In the meantime, because I love you, I am limiting your texting to 500 a month, anything over that I will have to charge you for.

Texting is finite, but those living in the 2010 to 2020 era will suffer. There is no doubt about it. Your concern is real, and we really need to talk about this subject, sooner than later. Reenie

We gave our kids pay-as-you-go cell phones (T-Mobile) that they have to pay for out of their allowance. Our daughter told her friends: no worthless texts like ''whassup?'' since they cost her money. She still sends text messages, but doesn't spend that much time on it. We limit our teenagers during the school year to 45 minutes of ''media'' and eMail time. That includes: eMail, TV, video games, etc. On weekends and in the summer then get another 30 minutes each day. We've been enforcing ''media'' time rules from day one, so although there is some pushback (and cheating when we are out of the house), we stay firm. As a result they read more and do other things. The other rule is no Facebook page until they are 18. --Media limits are good

Since HS our rule has been, facebook only 1 night during the week(after all homework) is done; we picked the night because school the next day starts 1/2 later in the morning. Also, FB on weekends. With the texting/chatting-- the phone gets put on the counter in the kitchen once she comes home. The phone is out of earshot and we have for years, told our teen no one should call on the cell at night(or afternoon), they can reach you on the home line. We've had to tweek it and sometimes people do call, but unless it's abusive(and repetitive and l---ong conversations) we generally don't say much. She is going to be a senior and frankly, most of her friends have too much homework, sports and extracurriculars like debate to be hanging on the phone or chatting alot. With a boyfriend everything changes...so this has worked b/c our teen did not have a BF. anon

Limits on texting on iPod for pre-teen?

Nov 2010

How are you handling the texting (which is done through iTouch and so it's free)? We are taking the iTouch away for a few days to reinforce the importance of old- fashioned human interactions (= talking in grammatically- correct English without the aid of a handheld device). However, we keep thinking there must be other things wise parents are doing to keep texting under control. Aside from smashing the evil iTouch, what else can we do?

You can do a lot about the texting. Check to see if AT has some sort of parental controls on their iPhones that limits when/how they are used.

We got our kids T-Mobile pay-as-you-go phones. They have a budget for the year and if they go over, their phones won't work. If they have money left over, it's theirs. With pay-as-you-go, your credit card is not hooked up to the phone so they can't go wild.

So far it is working great. Our daughter texts her friends occasionally but since she is paying for incoming texts (5 cents), she told her friends immediately: ''No nonsense texting''. We were very proud.

Our son has only sent a few texts. He mostly communicates by eMail which is no extra cost with our Internet service. Parent of Teens

IPhone for high school sophomore?

Sept 2010

My son, a sophomore in high school, is desirous of an iPhone--the new iPhone4--to the point where he is willing to buy the phone itself out of money he's saved. The plan cost is no more than what we're currently paying for plain cell phones (a family plan). My concern is that an iPhone seems on the extravagant side. Do many Bay Area teenagers have iPhones? Or is that excessive? Oakland Mom

i think if your teen wants to by an ipod with his own money, why not? throughout my son's life we refused to purchase things that we didn't value (xbox, computer games, gi joe's, etc.) he saved and saved to purchase them himself, but still had to convince us it was ok to have in the home(for example, gi joe was a compromise--he could buy but had to toss the weapons, or donate to a sand-tray therapist.) who knows if it was right or not, but it kept me from buying things i didn't believe in and led to him feeling proud that he could ''buy things for himself'' and at the end of the day, he turned out fairly unmaterialistic. anonymous

We let our 16 year old son buy an iPhone 4 with his own money with these conditions: he had to sign up for a 2 year contract so that the phone price was discounted ($199) and he had to pay for the mandatory monthly data plan ($25) out of his allowance. anon

Our teenager twins would love an iPhone, but we got them pre-paid T- Mobile phones. If you buy $100 worth of minutes/texts, the money rolls over as long as you buy more minutes within a year. It teaches them budgeting. They have to use their allowance to refill their minutes. It led our daughter to tell her friends: ''no nonsense text messages''. :) I'm not going to hook up my credit card to a phone used by a teenager. Especially one with a data plan. Parent of teens

Which cell phone for 12-year-old?

April 2010

I'd like to get a cell phone for my 12 year-old daughter that will allow her to do what 12 year-olds need to do socially safely and at a reasonable cost. I am currently with AT out of contract. Advice much appreciated. Miriam

Two words - ''Go Phone''. A pay-as-you-go cell phone allows the student to monitor phone costs and usage so he/she learns to meter conversations and texts. The phones are available at Frys, Best Buy, Radio Shack, etc and the refill cards can be picked up practically anywhere a store sells store cards.

The costs - upfront is the cell phone, with ongoing costs usually in the 20cents/min range for a call/text. But the student can purchase message packages (like 200 messages for $4.99 for 30 days). Rates vary according to provider, so check around. One carries a balance and uses up the balance as needed.

I got my kids cellphones with keyboards at this age (it's worth it) and we text all the time. It has saved us a lot of aggravation when I've been stuck in traffic or my kids plans changed. And we know exactly what we're spending at any time, so it provides immediate feedback on usage and trains the student to use the phone wisely.

Finally, in an age of bullying, texting addiction and other ills, please remember that pay-as-you-go accounts can be setup/canceled and numbers changed very easily - unlike billed accounts. And the liability is limited to the balance amount (like $15), so you won't get a $500 Internet cellphone bill or weird ''purchases'' to your phone.

But get a phone with a keyboard. You will be amazed how often you text your kids for status - and how frequently they actually tell you. :-) Lynne

We have AT too, and we added on our daughter to the family plan for just $9.99, and got her a basic phone that was a freebie. AT has a parent control option (its extra, not sure how much), so we can set time limits, text limits, etc. We really like it, as it keeps her phone use under control. Other parents have also said they have rules such as having them turn their phones in every night to a parent - depending on bed times. We did not put this into place, and I regretted it later, but was able to enforce it with the parent controls this year. Make sure you enforce all rules at the start, as it is very hard to add rules later and have them listen. Hope this helps. Good Luck! Timi

We use the family plan from AT - I think it is an extra $20 per month all together with the phone line and the messaging. We pay for unlimited texting because I have asked my daughter to text rather than call so that the phone is not near her head - it works well and after the first year of fun with the phone she is really only using it in emergencies... maggie

Compromising photos on 16-year-old's cell phone

Feb 2010

I check my teen's phone every once in a while. He is 16. I noticed that there were compromising pictures of himself on the picture mail on-line account. I of course, deleted them. How should I handle this. I have talked to him about this subject monts before to give him knowledge of what is going around. He said he would never do anything like that. But, as I stated above, I noticed pictures when i checked his phone. Now, he needs his phone for sport practice messages and for us to get a hold of him etc. I have been mulling around what to do. I plan on confronting him and taking his phone away for a week in the evenings and weekends and tell him that I will check all his incoming text messages (if he gets any) when I have the phone in my possession. I really hate taking things away or punishing this way. And I don't know if he has sent pictures of himself to anyone. Can anyone give me ideas how to handle this? Sometimes punishment makes them just NOT CARE anymore. I really want him to want NOT to do this stuff.

The simplest solution would to give him a cell phone without eMail or texting. Phone calls only. Jitterbug is one type. I don't have one, so I can't specifically recommend that phone.

But the underlying problem is more complicated. He needs to understand that his behavior is unacceptable. The only way is by serious consequences which means taking away privileges.

I would take away his cell phone (too bad about sports) completely. And I would take away eMail privileges except school related with you monitoring all messages.

I recommend Teen Proofing by John Rosemond for strategies about how to deal with teens. Parent of teenagers

Are you concerned about the new cell phone research?

Jan 2010

I am wondering how other Berkeley parents are responding to the latest info coming out about cell phones. Are other parents concerned? An old Berkeley friend of mine has been doing research and going to international conferences on cell phone dangers and he says teens (and kids) are the most vulnerable. I find this stuff daunting and would like to hear the reactions of other parents. Here are some of the things he has found in his research that concern me:

*Your head absorbs 10,000 times the radiation from your cell phone if held to your ear (or kept under your pillow waiting for a text message) than if you use a corded headset.

*Multiple studies show lower sperm counts and higher rates of testicular cancer on the same side as where the cell phone is carried in men's pockets.

*Scientists warn that young people who start using cell phones before age 20 are 5 times more likely to develop a brain tumor by the time they reach age 30.

*The majority of studies on cell phones have been funded by the cell phone companies and the scientists who found adverse effects had their funding stopped.

*Every cell phone study has found an increased risk of brain tumors with more than 10 years of cell phone use and the tumors are on the same side of the head where the phone is used.

*France, Israel and the European Environment Agency have taken steps to restrict the use of cell phones by children.

*Maine Representative Andrea Boland is introducing a bill that would require all cell phones sold in Maine to carry a warning label, advising children and pregnant women to keep the device away from their heads and bodies.

I find this information quite upsetting and have just recently begun to read about it in the news but haven't heard much discussion about it. What do other parents think about this research and how is it influencing the way you are dealing with your teen and their cell phone use? Thanks. Bobbie

Yes - it does bother me and it is scary. My children both have cell phones but they are used primarily for texting which lets us communicate without them having the phone next to their heads! Maggie

Cell phones are extremely dangerous. A number of studies have shown that drivers and pedestrians are distracted when on the phone, even by no-hands models. The number dead from driving while distracted, or walking into cars while distracted, appears to be in the thousands.

However, a cancer link to cell phone radiation has never been shown based on countless studies and epidemological data. For example, most Americans use cell phones, especially young Americans. Yet brain cancer incidence declined in the US since the late 1980s (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/540146_5).

The physics of cell phone radiation is clearer than the causes of brain cancer. Einstein got only one Nobel Prize, on the mechanism for ionizing radiation, the photoelectric effect. Robert Cahn of Lawrence Berkeley Lab wrote an article a decade ago on the connection between Einstein's work and cell phone radiation (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/08/30/ED16179.DTL). Sometimes people assume the science has moved on, but if Einstein's only work leading to a Nobel Prize turns out to be wrong, it will make the front page. For more than a day.

So I hope those of you who have been worried about cell phone radiation take solace, and also take the cell phone away from people who need to be concentrating! Karen

Check out this article, which describes a study done by the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The study concerned the effects of electromagnetic radiation from cell phones in mice. Most of the article focuses on the risk of Alzheimer's disease but it does touch on current research on the risk of brain tumors from cell phone use. http://www.physorg.com/news182024240.html Also concerned but not convinced

I was saddened to see the posting that unequivocally told all of you that you can take solace that cell phone use is safe for you and your children. THERE IS NOTHING FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. My husband has a malignant glioma (seizure and dx same week as Ted Kennedy). We have signed doumentation by drs and scientists worldwide that his glioma is attributable to his 20 years of cell phone use held to the right ear- tumor is in right frontal lobe. I tesitifed to Congress at their request, attend all international conferences, have been on the Dr. Oz show and the source of much media coverage. I have a list of hundreds of others with gliomas from their cell use.

ALL STUDIES, even industry funded, show a significantly increased risk of brain cancer if one uses a cell phone (held to their head) for more than 10 yrs. less than an hr. a day. There is a 420% increased risk if one began using one before age 20. NO SOLACE IN THAT. We do not need to abandon this technology - just take precautions. For the precautions and for information on studies and to learn about my involvement with legislation in San Francisco and Maine and soon our federal government please call me at 925-285-5437 or email me at emarks [at] apr.com. I will send you information that affirms the above. My colleagues just had me write the Briefing Book on this issue for the legislators. I know what I am talking about and I pray that you will be open to precautions. Our young people are texting more but they are sleeping with them ''on'' near their heads. There are many health risks involved, not to mention addiction. I know many in their 30's and 40's that have already died from this - it is so sad. Had there been warnings this need not have happened.

I have no self interest here - my goal is to educate people ao others do not suffer as my family has- my collegaues and I have started a program called WISE (wireless information and safety education)which is being employed nationwide. This refers to cell ''masts'' also.

I have personally founded the California Brain Tumor Association. Brain tumors, no matter what the cause, are an insidious disease. The information offered in the other post is outdated and I am happy to share newer information with you. Thank you for listening and for being open minded. Our children deserve to know the possibilities and to make healthy choices. This is a preventable health catastrophe. Ellie

Cell phone for middle school aged kid

Sept 2009

My daughter just started middle school and I'm thinking of getting her a phone. We don't want anything fancy, it doesn't need a camera, email, text, etc. Just something that can help us keep track of each other as she goes from school to practice to home. I do want a phone with GPS and a pay by use plan. Does anyone have experience with Kajeet (or another kid phone company)? It's seems like a good idea, however consumer reports are mixed. I'd love to hear about any other plans that you have found useful for your child. Thanks in advance! Sophia

Getting a cell phone for my son was a great move. It is soooo much easier to keep track of him. In Middle School he started scheduling his own ''play dates'' plus all his other myriad activities. We have a Verizon Family Plan. I gave him a number of minutes he was allowed to use per month, explaining that my bill would go up alot if he went over and he would have to pay it out of his savings. Texting, 900 numbers, etc. are turned off. So far, he has had his phone for about 3 years (now going into 8th grade) and is very responsible. We did take out an insurance plan and twice during the 2 year plan it got washed (once his fault, once mine). Maybe more of a problem with boys as he carries it in a jeans pocket. He has an i-phone now that he paid for himself. Before that he had a more basic phone but it could take pictures, and for teens, I think that is a fun and usually innocuous option. kl

Putting limits on 14-year-old's texting

Feb 2009

For the last year, my 14 year old daughter has been sending about an average of 5,000 text messages a month. One month it was as high as 9,000 (yes, nine thousand!).

Currently her texting is limited to hours we define, generally 3-9pm. Of course that doesn't eliminate her friends from texting her during other times. She pays for unlimited texting on the phone herself ($20/month). She only uses about 400 minutes per month to talk on the phone. The majority of her communication is done via texting. And, if you haven't already guessed it, the majority of her texting lately is with a boy. IT is nearing what I would call obsessive levels. She disagrees of course.

I'm worried about it for several reasons but none of them make sense to my daughter. I worry about the obsessive nature. I worry that it is interfering with other parts of her life. Although she gets straight A's in school. The whole thing is just now what I'm used to...it feels like new territory and I'm unsure how to handle it.

Do other parent's of teens have restrictions and concerns around text messaging? I'd love to hear them. Worried?

Two words - Go Phone! Don't give teens a cellphone with a billed plan. Go Phone (AT) and Virgin Mobile are 20 cents per text and have varying call rates and plans. Your teen just buys a card at the store and stocks up that amount, and he/she can watch that amount go down with each text message and call. When it's run out of money, no more texts until they refill the kitty. Make sure your teen pays for the calls out of his/her own account (they can ask relatives for phone cards instead of cash - many grandmas like this, because then they have to call her).

We started with Virgin Mobile Marbls (I have two light used ones with chargers if anyone would like to buy them - http://lynne.telemuse.net to contact). The kids quickly outgrew these so we picked up a couple of used Treo 650s (they have keyboards) and switched them to AT (just get a SIM at the AT or Parrot store - unless it's locked to another plan you should not have to pay anything for the SIM). They tend to buy the 200 messages (exp 30 days) plans for $5 (that's much cheaper than most plans).

Even though my son's now at UCLA, he still uses a Go Phone, charged to his credit card. When it starts going too fast, he really cuts back. My daughter also handles her own phone. Prepaid cell phone plans are offering more options all the time according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/21/technology/21prepaid.html). It saves a lot of ''got the bill and it's huge'' arguments, teaches fiscal and social responsibility (5000 text messages are a cause for concern - why isn't she/he *talking* to friends or using facebook?). And you can buy trendy phones and just pop in a SIM. Lynne

You're right that it's new territory; my son texts as if he is carrying on a conversation with the person, just batting texts back and forth. Problem is, the person isn't present, and often others are, or homework is waiting, or there are dishes to be cleared away, or guitar to be practiced... and nothing is accomplished but texting, which also shuts off others around him. If you're on AT, see about the Smart Parent Controls. You can control the hours when texting takes place (I highly recommend taking away the phone at night, because even when texting was turned off, phone calls could still come in). And you can control the number of texts per month -- once your child runs out, that's it. Finally, you can block numbers. My word to my son was: if texting with x-person does not diminish substantially in the next few days, that number will be blocked. I don't forbid texting entirely, because it is the new phone call and it is new territory. But old rules like consideration for others and attention to other things (like life) still apply. I would pay the nominal amount for parent controls and have a talk with your teen about it. mother of another texter

This is an area of obviously much concern! At our house I had noticed it more when there was a courtship going on, then it waned a bit. It's fun cause it's private. I get that.

SOMETHING THAT REALLY WORKED FOR ME. I sat my kids down (15, 17, 19 yr olds) and told them, ''Texting is a new fad, and it will pass as we move into brighter technology, but those that put this tool in our hands are not THINKING about our hands. Holding a device in your fingers perpindicularly (sp?) and having your thumbs race across a keyboard is DANGEROUS to the mechanics of the hand and should be VERY limited. Tendonitis, carpal tunnel, RSD, is at it's all time high right now, because of inadequate track balls, work at computers, and TEXTING. I frequently massage the kids hands and remind them OVER AND OVER, these tools we call hands are precious, limit their use to learning and music (and your laundry!) We know not what the future holds for you and pain if you continue to abuse them with a fad. Just cause it's available does not mean it's safe!

I really think we throw the Good Manners/ Obey me cause it's inappropriate/ not during dinner/ your grades, damn it approach out the window and put their active brains on a better reason to limit.... Their precious bodies. What do you think? Reen

Text messaging is out of control!

Jan 2009

Hi, my 9th grade daughter appears to be seriously addicted to texting, she walks room to room texting, takes it into the bathroom, does it during our conversations, and we fight about it during dinner as she hides it on her lap. She can text without looking so she does it as we converse and I do not know. Her grades are not that good and yesterday we fought so much about it. It is complicated in that she has divorced parents and my ex pays for the phone -free texting and will not limit it. My daughter is 50 50 in each home. My idea is it must be drastically limited. I went on line under text addiction and they said it is a new compulsive behavior and to reward the positive not just limit it. What do you recommend?

My son was being bombarded by texts from a certain girl at the rate of 20 an hour at times; it drove me bananas and forced me to pay for unlimited texting because we were being charged for her obsessive texts! He was not all that happy about the incessant texting either, and I did speak to her parents, but to no avail. I required that the phone be turned off at home, period. I know that's draconian, and I would offer an exception if he really needed to reach someone with a question or information, but then the phone had to go off again. At first he complained, but now he is actually relieved. I think that drastic measures need to be taken -- if she objects, just take the phone away (I did that, too, and we all survived). I am a divorced parent with 50/50 custody and understand what happens when divorced parents disagree, but I think it might be easier to get your ex on your side if you show him a record of the literally thousands of texts she is sending when she should be doing homework, talking to her family, helping around the house, etc etc Her life is being taken over by this obsession, and it is usually completely trivial communication, which can turn into harrassment of the receiver. Having been on the receiving end of this merciless bombardment, I strongly recommend you take drastic measures. And good luck! Convince your daughter that she will be getting a life back! texted out

I too have this issue. I have tried taking the phone at night espeially and putting it to charge in another room = she just gets on face book but at least the text is off

I have paid for smart limits (i phone) and this works to a point

I have linked it with a reward

i have thought about taking it away completely or stop paying for the line altogether and perhaps this might be the best way = simply present the bill for them to pay or risk losing the phone or agree to a reasonalbe text time etc

but of course all this from a mom who sometimes can't stop emailing or looking at these boards and responding!!!! ha ha that is meant to be a sense of humor - after all this is now the kids way of talking but at what cost? they can't hear the sincerity in anyones voice or other emotion and isn't that what having friends is about? Maddie Jane

Whew! I hear your pain! I just went through that with my daughter. She racked up over 8000 messages in a month! I just shut it off because she wasn't respecting the rules I set, those being not to do it during school. I'm single and was paying for it myself so didn't have to negotiate it with anyone else (one of the pleasures of being a single parent, I might add...)

Maybe if you talk to your ex about it in that way he might get it?

She had a few days of being really angry at me and not talking to me, but then it was fine. I think she actually appreciated it because it was so time-consuming and feeding her OCD symptoms! She sometimes says she wants it back, but I just say ''no,'' now, ''I can't afford it.'' Good luck! anon

Just take the phone away. If you can't get buy in with your ex, then take it away at your house. You can let her have when she leaves the house and she needs to turn it in when she comes home. Constant texting is rude, distracting, and -- yes -- addictive.

I cannot tell you the number of problems we had with text messaging. We finally took it away for over a year.

You do need to assert your right to set limits, even take it away. We took it away because it was interfering with everything, including grades.

It does hamper them socially because they do not speak live--they only email or text--but I really didn't care.

If you chose to let her have it still, set limits such as confiscating the phone during homework times, meal times and before bed---they love to take their phones to bed and text instead of sleeping. You can say the truth: we want to eat without the interruption and your need to concentrate on schoolwork without disruptions.

There's nothing wrong with her---it is a very addictive medium, particularly to teenagers who are notorious for their lack of impulse control.

But it is up to the parents to set and enforce limits. She'll probably tell you she's the only one, etc., but don't worry about that. Anonymous

You should set the rules for your house and your ex can set the rules for his house. Set rules for what seems appropriate--and enforce consistently. For example, cell phone must sit openly visible on the table or on fireplace mantel (or other visible location that's out of reach) when you and she are talking, during dinner, during homework time, etc. The only way to enforce this rule is to have the cell phone in an open location where you can see that she isn't using it. Set consequences if she breaks the rule and enforce them.

If her grades are suffering, then that has to be part of it--no texting until homework is done. Also, have a conversation with your ex about what he thinks will work to help her improve her grades. See if he can review her homework, etc. when she's there.

She will soon adjust. If you follow this plan, you will know that her texting is controlled at least half of the time and that may be the best that you can do. Anonymous

If you have AT (and maybe other companies) you can pay a small amount per month to have control over the calls. You can set your childs phone so that text messaging and phone calls are off for certain hours of the day, or you can block calls so that you don't have to accept phone calls of texts from certain numbers. You also can set it so that even during these down times, they can always call or text you so there is no excuse for not calling home! Found a solution that works for us!

Setting limits/controlling cell phone use

April 2008

Interested in finding out how others control/set limits on cell phone usage for first yr middle school student. Daughter was thrilled to receive a few months ago and went way over on usage; therefore, costing a huge amount for the last month. We all needed to learn what was truly free and what actions would cost... We would like to have the cell used for voice calls/emergencies, picture taking, and limited texting (this is the problem area along w/ wallpapers and other apparently ''free'' items). Most importantly, we want ''screen'' time to be limited and the plan to be economical. anon

Well, that cell phone is privilege, one that must be used responsibly. One of my 15 year old daughter's friends just went $400 over the text messaging limit on her cell phone! Her parents yelled at her and then did nothing. Not me! My daughter knows that she will have to pay for cell time that is over her limit for calls and text messages. If my daughter had gone over her text messaging limit by $400, she would owe me $400, which she would pay off, by not having an allowance for a painfully long time (and by earning that money). I suggest that you sit down with your young pre-teen and set some rules and consequences, up front. She should know the number of text messages she is allowed each month and the consequence for going over that limit (as in paying for it). Will your daughter be allowed to use her phone at school? Most schools do not allow it. Like the computer, My Space, Facebook, etc, cell phones can be fun and needs some limits! In my house, my teen's usage during the week is limited by homework, as she is not allowed to talk on the phone and do homework. Set a time limit with your daughter and stick to it. Consequences for not abiding by the limit can mean losing her phone for a day. Then finally, you might want to talk about consequences for losing that phone and not answering it when you call (most annoying). Make sure your pre-teen knows that cell phones are stolen from schools. If she ever loses it or it is stolen, your daughter must know to tell you right away. Otherwise, you will be liable for big bucks! anon

We got our daughter a Tracfone--one of those pay-as-you-go type cell phones that you load with minutes. She paid for the phone and she pays for most of the minutes. We pay about $20 every 4-6 weeks toward minutes. Since she has to pay for it, she is very careful about the minutes and the phone gives you a running tally of how many minutes you have left. An added bonus is when she loses the phone, it's no big deal, she can save up her own money and buy another one--they're as cheap as $15. Joan

Text messaging on cellular phones

April 2007

I'm thinking of getting my son a cellular phone. Right now he doesn't talk on the phone very much, but I anticipate that he will start sending and receiving text messages like many teens. My (extremely limited) understanding of text messaging is that there is a per-message cost for them. Are there cellular phone plans where the text messages are free, or included in plan minutes? Any advice for not bankrupting the family when/if our son gets a cellular phone? Thanks!

We have a family plan on Verizon. Our daughter gets 250 text messages (includes outgoing AND incoming) for $5 per month. Our agreement is, if she goes over the 250, she has to pay the additional charge (I think it's 10 cents per message). Works out well! anon

Cell Phone - What age and rules?

Jan 2007

I searched the archives and now need advice re. cell phones - what age did your child first get one and what rules did you set up? We would resist but our 12 year old will be in increasingly more situations, albeit for a very short time, where she may not have access to a phone or adult/friend with a phone. It's time but we're conflicted over how to handle it. Thanks in advance for the MANY posts I'm sure this will get. Tracy

I hope a lot of people answer because I am thinking about getting one for my son when he starts middle school. I know there will be times when I want to reach him and vice versa but haven't investigated the family plans and thought through the rules yet. they grow up so fast

We gave our daughter a cell phone in 7th or 8th grade. Our son got his in 5th. She protested, of course. There are 2 items to consider. What type of plan you have dictates how the phone is used. How many minutes do you have? Are some calls free? Is there a family plan? How much do text messages cost? The second question is whether the child is responsible enough to have a phone? Our son had his phone put through the washing machine 3 times!! Finally the phone would not work and he learned to clear his pockets before putting his clothes in the dirty clothes pile. DF

Our 12 year old son wanted one in the worst way. He claimed to be the ''only'' student in his class without one. He felt left out. This went on for a few months. Finally, we relented. But here were our reasons: (1) We waited until Christmas to make it a present. (2) After the rebate, the phone only cost us $10, and it was only $10 per month to add him on to the family plan. Plus we have tons of rollover minutes. (3) Most importantly, he is starting to hang out with friends away from home by a park or schoolyard, but not too far. He was borrowing someone else's phone to check in with us. (4) We set down specific rules about usage, and he knows if he loses it, he will have to pay to replace it. So far, 3 weeks into it, it's working out well. Anon

I'm a little late on this... My daughter got a phone in 7th grade. She has gone through about three already (she's now in 10th) because of ''accidents''. I highly recommend getting the insurance for your son's phone, it's about $3 a month, but worth it if he's ''accident'' prone. Another handy tip: I am with Cingular and they can block in and outgoing text messaging and outgoing web access!! This has saved us thousands of dollars!! There is no need for text messaging except for communicating with friends during classtime! I'm not sure if every cell phone company does this but you need to ask, obviously, they will be losing money. Also, if you do need to get a replacement phone, they sell refurbished phones online that work just as well as a brand new one, you just have to make sure it works with your plan.

Clearly replacing the phone has been one of my biggest issues. (why don't they make them with a thick rubber coating so they bounce when dropped?) The other is her turning it on loud and answering it! She tends to keep it on silent which is okay for during school, but then doesn't turn it back on until I'm red in the face! So, I sound like a broken record (CD?) when I keep reminding her to turn her phone on loud after school so I can get in touch with her if I need to. The whole cell phone experience has been frustrating, but also nice to be able to talk when she is out. She has actually used it in an emergency once and I was thankful that she had it.

Oh, get lots of minutes, they get used up pretty quickly.

Good Luck!! mom of cell phone-using-teen

Both of my kids got cell phones when they entered middle school and started going places on their own. Both kids bike to school, etc, and we wanted them to have a way to reach us. They didn't ask us for the phones, we insisted they have them. We added them to our family plan for a nominal cost. The message to the kids was that the phone was to communicate their whereabouts, changes in plans, reach us in an emergency, make plans. It's been 4 years since the oldest got his first phone and we haven't had any problems. The phones are used as we've asked and the text message charges and minutes have been within the plan. We check the monthly statements to see how much they are using their phones. Both kids have been responsible about taking care of their phones. When my 11yr old had a bike accident involving a car, it was a relief that he was able to reach us immediately. That said, we aren't really a family of phone chatters, so their cell phone usage may also reflect the behavior we as parents model. not a problem

Phone for teen daughter

Feb 2005

A previous posting about Metro PCS received no responses, so I thought I'd try again. We need to buy a phone for our teenage daughter, primarily for safety concerns, but being a teenager she will burn up minutes that we don't want to pay extra for. We just need to know that when she needs to call us to pick her up, she will be able to reach us. We live in Oakland, so coverage here and in Berkeley are of primary concern, but we would prefer good coverage in the greater Bay Area. Has anyone used this plan? For myself, I also want to replace my current plan with Cingular ($20.00 per month for 30 minutes) for one of the pay as you go plans. I am considering Tracfone, Virgin, and Boost Mobile; my question is which plan has the best coverage area? Since I use mine for roadside breakdowns and family emergencies, I really need the few calls I make to go through.

I've had Tracfone for more than 2 years now, and am *very* pleased with the coverage. From what I understand, they piggy-back on other service, and seem to pick the strongest signal etc. I've used mine from Monterey to Washington State with no problems whatsoever. Just be sure to point out that she'll burn up minutes on incoming as well as outgoing calls...! I use my phone maybe 15 mins. a month and it's worth it for that (just signed up for 1 year/350 mins again). But if she's going to use a lot of minutes/month... I wonder if this is the solution for you. You can peruse the Tracfone website (IE only, bleah) to see the rates. If you want me to refer you, we both get 100 free minutes. Jennie

I live in Berkeley and use Virgin and it has been perfect. Service is fine. I greatly appreciate the pay ahead and pay only for what you use aspect. I only use it rarely, but have used it in Hawaii actually. I think you said that you live in Oakland so I would get some input from Oakland people as to Virgin reception - but my experiences have been absolutely fine. margo

What are reasonable phone times for a teenager?

What are reasonable phone times for a teenager? His choice would be to have a phone line open to someone at all times. I understand that he needs to have SOME time for phone contact (or even real communication), but what is reasonable for both school nights and weekends. The rest of us ought to be able to get a call into our house.

This is an eternal problem in all families, it seems. I have tried limiting calls to certain hours -- say between 8 and 9 PM (wouldn't *that* be great?) Nothing has been particularly successful in my household; all curbing of this problem seems to involve monitoring on the parents' part. I have chosen not to provide my daughter with her own phone because (aside from the extra expense, which I can do without) that just gives her unlimited telephoning freedom and I don't see that as a solution to the problem. She does use the cordless phone in her room and when that gets out of hand, I disconnect it by taking the handset to the office for a while. This works quite well since under those circumstances her privacy is reduced. Placing a phone restriction is sometimes helpful but again implies that I monitor it. During phone restriction she is not allowed to talk on the phone at all. If this rule is violated, I take away a privilege, like TV watching or getting together with her friends.

My daughter is alone three hours after school. After her 1 chore (one for each day of the week-listed on calendar) and homework is done she can talk on the phone until bedtime. I am not a phone person nor do I get calls. This didn't work. Grades went down, etc.. I now take the phone with me to work. If there is a problem she can go to 3 neighbors. Callers have complained that I must have daughters because the phone is always busy. My daughter's solution is to pay for call waiting. Not! She needs to spend more time studying. I have also limited her calls to 30 min. with 1 hour wait between calls. I let the answer machine pick up the call. We need more family time together and I am working hard at it. The phone is a barrier.

12-year-old girls phoning boys

June 1999

My 12-year-old daughter just started getting together with girl friends and calling boys. I have major problems with this -- what do you think? What limits have you placed on your kids?

I feel it is imperative for this mother to realize that socializing with her peer group is so much more important than almost anything else in her life. Do not consider this a major problem (a major problem is teenage pregnancy, getting into drugs and alcohol, stealing and hanging out on the streets all the time with nothing to do but hang out). Perhaps the major problem here is the parent's fear, understandably, of what getting together with girlfriends and calling boys can lead to, but fear is what I live and breathe as a parent of a child growing up these days, and these are my fears, not my child's. Their only wish is to grow up and be a part of something. More importantly, it is necessary for parents with teenagers to set aside their fears and translate those fears into positive experiences, like offering to take your daughter and her girlfriends on a shopping trip, or to the movies, or to Great America, where you are there as the backdrop, and you just live and breathe and listen to what's going on with your daughter and her friends. Sharing these experiences with you as chauffeur and chaperone may well open up communication with your daughter so you'll learn who her friends are (they are just as nice and wonderful as she is, no doubt), and just ask casually what boys she's calling and find out who these friends, boys and girls, are. Make a point, without embarrassing her, to see for yourself who her friends are and some of your worries may go away. What follows, of course, are other issues when and if her social life begins to liven up. Believe me, I'm very sympathetic to the underlying fear this mother has (my daughter is now 16). --jahlee (6/99)

Exactly what part of this do you have problems with? That they are talking with boys? That they are on the phone? It seems like a harmless activity - I think you need to figure out what your fears are - maybe what this can lead to in the future? - and then figure out just exactly what you want the limits to be.

My daughter did this for a while and believe me it's pretty innocent. They can't catch anything nor get hurt over the phone. They generally don't have places to hang out together anymore (like down at the corner soda fountain), this is the next best thing. (June 1999)

Regarding the 12 year old calling boys---I remember being 12 and getting together with my girlfriend. We actually tried to call Davey Jones (of the Monkeys) by calling New York directory assistance for his number! Also, my 15 year old son has periodically gotten calls from girls since he was about 12. Having (yet) no interest he makes it pretty clear, pretty quickly to the girls calling him. I think the ones that are interested enjoy the conversations! As long as the calls don't interfere with other daily activities (school, household contributions) I think it's a pretty normal, fun way to socialize.