Teens, Tweens Phones & Tablets! Now What?!

2012 December 19

There’s No Place Like Phone…

This Post has been brought to you by Location Labs, the makers of Safely apps for families and publishers of Safely Times a monthly newsletter offering tips and resources for parenting in a digital age.

It’s the age old parenting conundrum.

You VOW as a parent you’ll NEVER:

  • Let your child run around with a runny nose, wiping it on their sleeve. (However, after the 14th cold in a row in the same winter you gave up on that didn’t you? Admit it, I know you did.)
  • Let your daughters play with Barbies. It doesn’t give them the proper perspective on body image and women’s abilities etc. (She will get 4 Barbies at her first birthday party and she will love them with all her heart reminding you how much YOU also loved Barbies as a child and you survived, so get over yourself, mom.)
  • Allow ear piercings before 12 years old. (And even though you convinced the oldest that a needle through her ear will hurt when she was 6, the middle daughter will come along and the same argument will fail so badly—she will convince the older one to gang up on you—and I’m sorry to let you in on this but you WILL give in.)
  • Let an elementary kid have a cell phone. (WHY? Why would a 6th grader need a cell phone! For the love of Pete. No WAY! And the Pete argument worked really well… for the oldest kiddo. But once again, the younger kids grow up and the needs change. And sure enough a 6th grader who is in Cross Country Track after school DOES need a cell phone—so mom will keep her sanity when running in 3 different directions after 3 different kids and a text from the 6th grader is extremely helpful when the bus is late and won’t be home before 11PM!)

And our current conundrum…

That pesky issue of the DREADED DATA PLAN

I could go on and on about why I vowed I wouldn’t let even a teen have a data plan. I fought it for several years in fact. And recently I had this brilliant idea. First, the 6th grader needed a phone, mainly to text mom. Second, I had a hand me down phone that the older kiddo could use and give her texting only machine to her sister. Here’s where it gets tricky so stay with me…

The phone I wanted to hand down to my 15 year old works perfectly fine NOT hooked up to ANY plan, we just used the wifi in our house for Pandora and other internet related needs. I figured I’d simply hook it up to a cellular plan and skip the data plan avoiding the safety issues of a walking internet device in the hands of my teen daughter, right?


And believe me I’ve asked. I talked with the HTC phone reps who made the phone. I then talked with several Verizon representatives including the PR guy who covers the whole North West Area. (He was very nice by the way.)

Because it turns out… if you have a ‘smart phone’ there is NO OPTION to turn off the data plan. (You CAN pay extra money to BLOCK the data plan… I nearly choked when they offered that as a solution.) I’m not sure which bothers me more– the fact that I have no choice but to pay $30 per month more each month for a data plan OR that my only other option is to go buy a basic phone.

Parenting Teens & New Technology

In the end I’ve opted to parent my teens by talking to them about the safety issues with a smart phone, asking them to police themselves with internet usage and time spent texting (which is an ongoing issue we are working on).  My friend and wiredsafety expert Mary Heston is all about parenting kids and working WITH new technology, not banning outright or refusing to understand their brave new world.  It’s a work in progress but I’m happy to say I believe my teens are learning their way around the new social norms in this increasingly technical world.

Speaking of teens with smart phones…

Did you know a little brand called Safely has created several apps that work on smartphones and basic phones, depending on your carrier: Safely Family Locator (available through AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile), Drive Safe (available through Sprint), and Safely Phone Controls (available through Sprint)–all of which offer a free trial period.

Recently I also wrote specifically about the Safely Go App available free and direct from Google Play (any phone carrier). It helps you help yourself stay away from texting while driving!

All of these make sense to me in a big way, as the parent of teens and tweens I would like to say my kids ALWAYS make all the right decisions. But as was the way of the Barbie Dolls above… I know to never say NEVER!

Share your thoughts about teens & tweens and phone safety on Twitter via @Safely and using hashtag #digitalwellness. I’d love to hear how you are dealing with these issues!

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One Response
  1. Scotty Reiss permalink
    January 8, 2013

    Love this! I found the same frustrating thing about smart phones and data plans, and were even told that if your carrier discovers you have a smart phone they will automatically charge you for a data plan, even if you don’t use it. So we had to tell our 13 year old sorry, no smart phone yet. We opted for a Pantech that at least lets her text and run a few apps. But between her Kindle and laptop, does she REALLY need a smartphone too?

    And now, on to the fifth grader who wants one so bad she can taste it…

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