25 Feb
2014
Posted in: parenting
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My 5th Grader Has a Cell Phone

texting cell phone

I gave my fifth grader a cell phone for Christmas. I still can’t believe I did. It’s something I never thought I’d purchase for my elementary student.

Our oldest son’s fourth grade year was full of sporadic turmoil at the hands of two boys in his class. It was an emotional drain for both him and me. Our son received a full dose of how ridiculously cruel children can be. I knew after last year I wanted B to have a cell phone in junior high. While he wanted a phone because most of his friends already had one, I wanted him to have one for my own peace of mind. The phone represents easy contact for me. I can think of several past situations and future scenarios where a cell phone would have/will be helpful, if not necessary. We chose Christmas of his fifth grade year, so the novelty of the phone would wear off before junior high next year.

My husband and I don’t own smart phones or have expensive cell phone plans. We use pay as you go phones. I’m distracted enough at home by technology. I don’t want the Internet at my fingertips. On more than one occasion, I’ve wanted to walk out of a gathering because people were so tuned into their phones, they were missing the people sitting around them. I don’t want to be that person who can’t be separated from her phone. I choose not to tempt myself. I hope my children will think similarly.

I used Janell Burley Hofmann’s cell phone contract for her son as a guide for our own contract. It’s all inclusive from what happens when he breaks/loses his phone to what camera phones are for to simple etiquette of cell phone usage. Our son was ecstatic to be gifted the phone. He would have willingly sat down and listened to me go on for hours about rules and signed anything to have the phone in his possession. Nothing in the contract made him balk, not even the rule that the phone can’t be kept in his room at night. He readily agreed to all conditions.

Our son is responsible and has a solid head on his widening shoulders, but still I worried the phone would be a new means to drive me bonkers. I envisioned having to tell him numerous times to put it down. I, once again, worried for no reason. B rarely remembers to take the phone anywhere. It just sits in the dining room most days. Instead of me being annoyed with him using the phone too much, I’m annoyed he’s forgotten to bring it to practice AGAIN.

Eventually the phone will take a more active role in B’s life. There will come a time when he will need told to put it down. For now, he’s getting used to owning a phone and having parents check contacts and history. Gifting him with a phone took a leap of parenting faith which requires guidance, teaching and diligence on our part. This phone business also requires two-way trust. We have to trust he’ll follow the guidelines we’ve set up while he has to trust we won’t abuse our authority over the phone.

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