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My nieces and nephew visited recently and I was floored that all three of the girls (including the eight year old) already have their own cell phones. What really bowled me over was when we sat down to eat and all three girls and their mother were texting all through all our meals (except thanksgiving dinner thankfully ;-)). My nephew had his DS at the table. Even my six-year-old daughter Alice was taken aback enough to say something about it to me later.

It got me thinking about:

A. When do most kids get their first cell these days?

B. How do parents decide when their kids are responsible enough to have their own personal phone?

Both of these questions were answered on SE here; There were varying opinions, but the general idea I liked most was that they should get the phone when they are paying for it (which also answers the responsibility question).

But that still left me with the question,

What limits should be set along with the first phone to help avoid having your own child exhibit such behavior? as well as other cell use behaviors that would be equally inappropriate.

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o_O Whoa, incredible -- except that the mother leads by example. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 27 '12 at 8:39
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Kudos to you that Alice knew to ask about it later and not in the moment, tho perhaps that would have led to a resolution right there! Lol –  Christine Gordon Nov 27 '12 at 12:49
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Geez! This family is one hot mess! You have my sympathies! –  Meg Coates Nov 27 '12 at 15:05
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Yeah, this isn't even the tip of the iceberg - I could write a novel. I used to say, "everybody loves raymond" was actually written about me, (me being deborah) but they had to tone it down for television. –  balanced mama Nov 27 '12 at 15:07
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relative to my answer in the topic about b'day party gift opening, it's all about domain. "My house, my rules... no damn phones at my dinner table. Including you, Cruella. Let's take a moment or 2 and . . . what do they call it? Interact." –  monsto Nov 28 '12 at 19:41
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I don't think cell phones are inherently the problem here, it sounds like a lack of manners being taught. I mean, they could just as easily have been reading books during dinner. I can't imagine anyone would argue not to give your child books, but that doesn't mean there isn't a time and a place for them.

I'm not sure what you can do about someone else's kids/family except to say "oh, in our house, we don't bring toys to the dinner table." Maybe it will be awkward for a second, but at least they will know and I'm sure they'll forget the awkwardness as soon as they start eating. Also, being willing to speak up when there's a problem teaches the watching children to do the same, which is critical for addressing bullying in our communities. Model respect and firmness at every opportunity :)

If its your child, I think whether to give a phone or not is a personal preference. But certainly teaching manners goes right along with it. For me, the only reason they'd get a phone before age 13 is emergencies and to call their parents. The phone wouldn't be able to call anything else.

After 13, I would let them call their friends etc on the cell phone but they'd need to understand the billing cycle and any rules like nights & weekends free, minutes allowances, etc. I'd deal with immaturity on this issue the same way I would with anything else. Respect, firmness, connectedness, transparency, communication, etc.

Hope this gets at your question.

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@Christine - Um. . .How did you know it was the same family? –  balanced mama Nov 27 '12 at 13:58
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@balancedmama, its part of my genius ;) –  Christine Gordon Nov 27 '12 at 14:04
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+1 for the simple truth: manners! Teach proper manners for everything. Proper phone conduct is simply one among innumerable areas. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 27 '12 at 15:13
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My 11 yo girl doesn't have a phone yet, but I'll be giving her a hand-me-down soon. I was going to just comment, but then I realized that necessity isn't the only reason for an 11yo to have a phone.

There's social. All her friends have phones. And even tho she's not much of a follower, it's kinda like a HS Senior still riding the bus. It's not a problem, it just sucks.

Primarily, she kinda needs one . . . we don't have a landline (everyone has cells these days) and she's in middle school, staying after, goin to dances and friends houses, etc. So I've decided that, while she has a hard time even keeping up with the charger for her DS, I'll drop the extra $5 a mo so that she can have a number on my fambly plan.

The point being that with all the practical reasons, don't forget how much jr. high and high school sucked whenever you were the "only one" that wasn't doing something.

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A. When do most kids get their first cell these days?

See How old should a child be before getting their first cell phone?
Hint: It boils down to the maturity of the individual child, plus the parents' overall policy.

B. What limits are usually set along with the first phone?

This would be a great question all by itself. Could you please open a new question for this?

C. How do parents decide when their kids are responsible enough to have their own personal phone?

See question linked under A.

Set to wiki answer so I won't get rep for this.

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I changed my question to really emphasize the one question that hasn't already been addressed on SE. I'm not sure the way I changed it is exactly the best way, so as ever, feedback welcome here. –  balanced mama Nov 27 '12 at 14:09
    
@balancedmama: Looks good to me. I also sometimes edit a question along the way. That might make some answers a little "off" but if the question is revised fairly early then overall it's a benefit. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 27 '12 at 15:01
    
Cool. Thanks - I wasn't sure about the link to the other question IN (sorry I don't know how to make that one bold, I'm not yelling) the question I posed. –  balanced mama Nov 27 '12 at 15:03
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@balancedmama: The formatting is the same as in the post editor: use one asterisk * before and after for italic and two asterisks ** for bold. Also backtick ` for code if you ever need that. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 27 '12 at 15:10
    
Cool. Thanks - I wasn't sure about the link to the other question in the question I posed. I can't imagine that I would want any code! Probably unusual for this community in that way - pretty much stayed away from them except for the basics 'til the blog. –  balanced mama Nov 27 '12 at 15:11
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Rules I would set with giving my child a phone: (I drew inspiration from a news story)

  1. Don't text and drive.
  2. If I call you and you don't call back, I will worry, so you need to return my phone calls.
  3. Don't use the phone when you are supposed to be doing something else (dinner, in class, etc)
  4. (If there are billing limits) Don't use the phone more than the amount I want to pay for in terms of minutes, texts or internet
  5. Don't use the phone to make, receive or view pornography or other material of which we, your parents, would disapprove

There are a number of things that relate to the phone that play on rules in other areas (call if you will be out later than time x, be polite, don't gossip) which should hopefully have already been taught in those other areas and continue to be taught.

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There's a video of Louis CK talking about this on Conan that nails this issue IMHO

Some quotes from the video:

"You say no, you can't have it"...

"I think these things are toxic, especially for kids - they don't look at people when they talk to them" ...

"I'm not raising -- the children I'm raising the grown-ups that they're going to be"...

"You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kind of satisfied with your product."

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