Phones For Preteens (or How We Caved)
Henry is now 11 years old.
Henry has been keeping a chart in his room and counting down the days until his birthday. He likes birthdays, in general, but he was extremely excited for his 11th birthday because for his main present, he was getting..... a phone. Yes, my 11 year old has his own phone -- and it does feel both strange and slightly embarrassing to admit that fact.
But, there are three things that I have to disclose before we go any further and you begin to judge.
A Phone For The Preteen Rationale One: Henry will be going to middle school next fall and he will be getting out from school earlier than his sisters and in a location where I won't be able to pick him up. I have been told by multiple parents that in middle school (which is close to our town), the children like to walk to the shops together after classes end and it's best to have a way to monitor both where they are and when they have to make their way back to you. I've seen a friend of mine in high panic because she's arranged to pick a friend of her son's up from middle school but neither her son nor the friend knows this information and neither is leaving from the same door. If only one of them had a phone, she said! I don't care for that kind of stress and I made a mental note: maybe Henry should have a phone.
A Phone For The Preteen Rationale Two: The second reason we succumbed to the Great Preteen Phone Purchase is after much research, we concluded that phones require rules and that real teenagers don't like rules. Apparently, pre-teens are still okay with parental guidelines and interference and according to people who were polled, when you present a younger child with a phone and list of phone-using rules, not only do they follow said rules but the rules become second nature. Teenagers who have been following their parents phone guideline for a few years, are less inclined to disobey them once they are older and more surly. (please stop the hysterical laughing, all you parents of teenagers. I am a newbie and these are all just THEORIES that I'm hoping turn out to be true. I'm sure I will soon learn that my theories about teenagers and rules are much the same as a pregnant woman declaring that SHE will never have a child who throws fits in the grocery store. Her well-behaved offspring will have boundaries and will know to be perfectly behaved at all times. I know this, but at the same time, I can't give up hope.)
A Phone For The Preteen Rationale Three: Our last reason for getting Henry the phone is really a joke on us. Gordy and I -- very smugly, I might add -- told Henry we would buy him the most basic of phones when he got to middle school. The kind of phone with two buttons: one that calls home and one that calls the police. We then told him that if he wanted a better sort of phone, he would have to earn money for the upgrade himself. This is where the smug-ness comes in. Henry, you see, is not a huge fan of physical labor. Nor of making his bed, nor of clearing his plate from the table. Being told to clean his bedroom has been known to send Henry into apoplectic fits of rage. Once when asked by his pediatrician at his yearly physical what his family chores were, Henry had to pause for a full 30 seconds before answering meekly "... um?" Earning money by helping out around the house has never been easy for Henry.
Gordy and I figured the whole Preteen Phone debate was over. There was no way Henry would ever save that much money. Obviously, we were home free.
We have since learned a valuable lesson in parenting: Never underestimate the lengths a child will go to to earn money for an electronic devise.
Henry took our challenge very seriously.
He shoveled our long driveway from garage to road twice this winter:
That's Henry on top of wall of snow he had personally shoveled. Impressive, no?
He also cleaned and swept out the below mess in our garage:
He saved every dollar he received from Valentine's Day and Easter and every penny he found lying on the sidewalk. He gladly accepted the offer to earn 50cents here and there for minor chores and I even got him to clean up his room without complaining.
And guess what he used his money for:
Frightening, isn't it?
We've had the phone in the house for a week and so far, so good. There is no phone on school days, use of the internet is considered Media Time and restricted to weekend moments he would have been playing on our family computer. All his text messaging is subject to parental review and we had thorough discussions about what messages/images are and are not appropriate to send to other people. Right now he is not allowed to have a phone in school, but next year, he knows that if his phone is taken away at school, it will be taken away at home, too. We think we've covered all the bases. But just in case, we've added a clause giving us the right to add more Phone Rules as we see fit.
We have entered a whole new realm and I'm not sure Gordy and I are ready for it.
On the positive side, we attended our annual Town Day yesterday and when Henry went off with some friends, we were able to text him when it was time to leave, which was nice. And I'll be happy to have a way to get in touch with him this summer when he's at the pool with his friends. Maybe this whole preteen phone thing will be good after all.
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