It finally happened. My kids could not be more excited. They've been asking for a least two years now, and we've been holding them off. But finally, on Black Friday, we found an amazing deal and pulled the trigger. Yep, my wife Cheryl and I have gotten cell phones for our twelve year-old, seventh grade twins.
We took this step as much or more for us than for our kids. We want to be able to reach them when needed, and we want them to be able to reach us. There seemed to be more than one occasion when I'd see an unfamiliar phone number on my caller ID. This was one of my kids borrowing a friend's phone to call to ask permission for something. They'd leave a message and then I'd call right back. Now I know just what number to call.
For my son, who at times seems to be technology dependent, this was a big step. We have to drag him off of his electronic devices on a regular basis. He doesn't seem to find joy in anything that doesn't have some sort of screen attached. Giving him something this portable seemed to feed his addiction.
When we began to talk with our daughter about entering middle school, she told us that she "had to have" a cell phone. It came across as if it were a school rule. In the years since we've given our kids wi-fi enabled devices and seen them grow in their use of it. While these devices are useful, powerful, and can do a great many things, they are limited when not connected to Wi-Fi. We've seen fruit from teaching our kids some basic skills for navigating the world of technology first by limiting access and then giving increasing freedom as our children have demonstrated growing responsibility.
Our prayer is that God will use this new responsibility to help our kids mature. So when we gave the kids the phones, we sat them down and had a conversation. Here were our key talking points...
- The phones belong to mom and dad. We're only letting the kids use them.
- Mom and dad can look at the phones wherever and whenever we want.
- The kids will always answer when mom and dad call.
- The kids are responsible to charge the phone every night.
After doing a little research, we also made our children sign a conduct contract. This includes the following:
- No cyber bullying (especially of one another). We fully expect this to be an ongoing discussion.
- Kids must notify us if they receive or are asked to send something inappropriate (pictures, jokes, etc).
- How to handle social media.
As we've talked to the kids, I've also come to the realization that our kids will learn both good and bad cell phone habits from us, their parents. I've committed to text the entire family a verse from the Psalms each day to encourage them. This has sparked more conversation around the dinner table. I'm hopeful this new technology can be leveraged to help us all grow.
How are you helping your kids navigate the world of technology? Leave a a story or helpful tip below.