Teens & Phones & Texting

Parent Q&A

Adult children who are tethered to their smartphones Aug 22, 2021 (4 responses below)
Getting a cell phone for a raising 6th grader Jun 14, 2021 (8 responses below)
Buying a Used iPhone for Teen & Advice on Controls to Install May 20, 2021 (3 responses below)
WaitUntil8th Oct 2, 2019 (7 responses below)
What is the best App for limiting screen time on an Android phone Aug 30, 2019 (11 responses below)
Getting rid of smartphone? Jan 19, 2019 (13 responses below)
Do/Would you read your child's texts? Dec 26, 2018 (12 responses below)
Flip phone for middle schooler Jul 28, 2018 (7 responses below)
Therapist for young teen with phone addiction? May 28, 2017 (3 responses below)
Son paralyzed by the telephone. Apr 15, 2017 (7 responses below)
Advice for first cellphone for almost-6th grade daughter Jul 13, 2016 (9 responses below)
  • 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!

  • 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!

    Problem buying a used phone is you don't know the condition of the battery or the phone.  The cost for used phone and battery replacement is more than buying a new phone.  Check with you carrier to see if they have deals where you get an iPhone for "free".  AT&T and Verizon were both doing that.  You might want to take a look at GoogleFi, Google's cell phone service.  Your daughter could be on a plan for $17/mo.  My tech friends say GoogleFi is working well for them.

    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.

  • 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.

    The problem in buying a used iPhone is battery life.  The cost to replace the battery is more than the phone is worth.  Makes no sense to buy a used phone if the battery is only going to last a few hours and need to be charged. If you are an AT&T customer aren't they offering a "new" iPhone for free?  I know Verizon is right now.
    Get Apple care, a screen protector and a case and expect your child to break the screen many times.
    If you are fixed on used phones try eBay and buy from a private party, rather than someone who just sells phones. That way you can get some history about the phone. I would not buy one off of CraigsList, too many scammers and people have been robbed and shot over phone deals.  (Even if you meet in a public place).

    Hope this helps.

  • 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? 

    RE: WaitUntil8th ()

    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.

    RE: WaitUntil8th ()

    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

    RE: WaitUntil8th ()

    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. 

  • 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.

  • 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?

    RE: Getting rid of smartphone? ()

    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. 

    RE: Getting rid of smartphone? ()

    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.

    RE: Getting rid of smartphone? ()

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    RE: Flip phone for middle schooler ()

    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!

    RE: Flip phone for middle schooler ()

    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!  

    RE: Flip phone for middle schooler ()

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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.  

    Take a look at the Chinese imports such as  Bluboo Xtouch, OnePlusX, OnePlus2 or UMI.  There are well over 100 of them that will work with AT&T and cost between $100 and $250.

    All of the OnePlus phones have outstanding reviews and seems to be the one to get if you're not interested in paying $900 for an iPhone.  Many of my friends in the tech have them and are very pleased.  My wife has and one for over a year and it's worked flawlessly.  Get the insurance.  I think it was $40 for two years.  If the screen breaks twice in two years you'll get a new phone.

    OnePlus phones have to be ordered on their web site.  For the other imports you'll have to order from eBay or Amazon. 

    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!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

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.