Last summer, our son (then 13.5 yrs. old) asked for a cell phone. He tried to justify it by pointing out that if he had a phone, he would be able to know what time it is and could call us if he was going to be late when out riding his bike with friends.
We bought him a wrist watch instead.
He responded with respectful patience...and a few heavy sighs.
This summer, at 14.5 years old, we decided to allow him to get a phone. Although it is hard to believe, based on the fact that NONE of US had one until we were adults, he really was the last of his friends without a phone. We established ourselves as the 'strict parents' early on in his childhood--with no apologies--and now had backed it up firmly with our stubborn refusal to allow him a phone well past the time when most of his friends had one, so we felt ok at finally giving in. We hadn't compromised our principles or position as the strict parents. It was time.
Before he got the phone on Saturday, however, we had a lengthy discussion with the boy, laying down the rules and stipulations for cell phone ownership by a teenager living in our home. Behold, the fine print:
1. You must pay for the phone yourself. The cost of the phone itself, the cost of adding another line to our plan, and the cost of a texting package will be your responsibility. If, at any time, you are unwilling or unable to finance the phone, it will be immediately removed from your possession.
2. You must learn to track your own minute and text usage. The plan selected is generous and sufficient, but not unlimited. If, at any time, you have overage fees to pay, the phone will be removed from your possession for a minimum of one month and will be restored only when the overage fees are paid--and not before one month has passed, even if the fee is small and can be paid immediately.
3. No texting during family meals or school classes. Duh.
4. The phone is not to be used after bedtime and must be surrendered to its position on the charger (not in your bedroom) each night, to be picked up again in the morning. This will ensure that the phone is always charged (no excuses why you didn't call or we couldn't contact you), as well as prevent you from losing sleep.
5. The phone must be surrendered immediately to either parent who asks to see it at any time. The parent is allowed to scan through your sent and received texts and photos, looking for anything that could be deemed morally inappropriate, dangerous or illegal. Yes, this is an invasion of your privacy. Get used to it. We will do our best to protect you from the crazy stuff that is out there, even if it is frustrating to you. We are called to be responsible parents and raise you right. If we also get to be your friends, too, then that is a bonus, but it is never a requirement.
He respectfully informed us that these terms are much stricter than anything his friends face regarding phone usage. We informed him that we were OK with that.
He wanted a phone badly, so the terms were acceptable to him.
(It's kind of fun being strict.)