To Use a Contract or Not Use a Contract… That Is the Cell Phone Question
We made the deal: on my daughter’s twelfth birthday, she would get a cell phone. She’d been begging, claiming she was the “only one in her class without one.” Her grades were good and she was getting to that point in her life where she needed to contact us while at dance practice or a friend’s house, for example.
So, we did it. We bought her a phone.
I told her it would come with a contract. I’d heard from friends this is essential to making sure your tween isn’t glued to the phone or using it inappropriately. I figure, put it all in writing, that’ll solve any issues, right?
I did some research and changed my tune. I naively thought a contract was a quick and simple way to make sure my daughter has pristine cell phone habits. Just sign here and it’ll all be okay, right?
I’m learning I have to take on more responsibility than just throwing a contract at my 12-year-old. I need to give myself a list of to-do’s instead. For example:
- Explain What the Phone’s Purpose IS
I need to make sure my daughter understands that the phone is a privilege. Heck, I never got a gift worth a “several hundred dollars” when I was only 12! The phone’s prime use is for communication with mom and dad. It is a safety measure first and foremost. If my daughter isn’t communicating correctly and efficiently with us, then the phone and her privileges are revoked. Period.
She also needs to understand how much that phone costs, what the monthly bill is, how much a new screen costs and whether she has to pay for it. Explain data limits and what a cell phone provider’s contract is.
- Let Her Know There Are No Secrets
My daughter knows that I MUST KNOW what her passcode is. If she feels the need to keep something secret, then that’s a problem. When she’s older and more capable of navigating the ins and outs of social media, texting, etc. then we’ll have another conversation about privacy. But for now, I need to understand what’s going on in her digital world.
- Be on Social Media and ON HER ACCOUNTS
When my daughter signed up for Instagram, guess who was the first friend to follow her? ME of course! I need to see what she’s posting and make sure it’s appropriate. There are oodles of conversations to be had about what she’s putting out to the world. Is it kind. Is it necessary.
I learned of a mom who is on her daughter’s social media accounts, but under a fake name. I was told this was a nice way to NOT embarrass your daughter. I couldn’t disagree more. I’m on my daughters account and I’m not lying about who I am. Do I want her lying about herself on social media? No.
- Take It Away!
She’s texting unkind words? Take the phone away. She’s bringing her phone to the dinner table? Take it away. She’s being secretive and deleting messages? Take it away. It is my belief we have to police and protect our children in this digital age. They won’t always get it right and they’ll need guidance along the way. I’m pretty sure signing a contract and calling it a day just isn’t enough.