Smart Phone Or Not? For My Tween This Summer

As my mom always reminds me, life was simpler when I was growing up.  Don’t I know it.  For one thing, there was NO cel phone debate.  To get your child, tween, teen a cel phone or not?  That is the question (among many,many others).

What is the right age? 

What is the right phone? 

Which plan is best?

What are the rules of use? 

Do they need a smart phone and a data plan? 

Are they going to keep the phone in their room? 

Does he/she need to take the phone to school?

The questions could go on infinitely.

Are any of these thoughts, questions, or anxieties sounding familiar?  If you are anything like my husband and me, you have and will continue to spend many hours going over these questions with one another early in the morning, late at night, and whenever else you are sitting around discussing the ups and downs of raising children right now in this world we live in.

I should say this:  Every family does what works for them.  No judgement here.

This is our story: 

Last summer, my oldest son who was 10&1/2 at the time was attending a number of different basketball camps in various locations.  He was taking a school bus to some and getting dropped off at others.  If that was not confusing enough, he was also in charge of his little brother tagging along for a few camps while he was solo for others.  I decided it was time.  Time for a phone.

Mainly because I could not be waiting at a different bus drop off location or parking lot every week without knowing when exactly the gang would be back or if they were early and waiting on me.  I try not to be a helicopter parent, but thinking that my kid was sitting in a parking lot alone waiting for me – threw me over the edge.  A phone – it was.

My husband who typically defers to me when it comes to major parenting talks, came up with what I feel was a brilliant talking point in introducing the phone to our son.  We presented him with the phone, but explained that it is not ‘his’ but rather ‘ours.’  We were responsible to pay for it, our names were on the contract, and we were obviously the parties who legally owned the phone.  Therefore, our son understood that he was borrowing it and his actions with the phone not only affected him, but us, too.

I have to say, the cel phone experiment went great.  I enjoyed a worry-free summer regarding pickups and drop offs, and went on to see my son learn responsible phone manners (both texting and gasp – calling – which they only do once in a while) over the last year.  The phone resides in our kitchen when not being used out of the house, and yes – I periodically glance at the texts.  Who knew that there could be that many texts over the NBA finals?

This summer, the dynamic changed a bit. At 11&1/2 and 9 years old, we were beginning to allow the boys to go out on a bike ride together or run their lemonade stand around the corner themselves.  This came with a whole new set of worries and difficult decisions.  I feel strongly it is important to teach our kids independence, yet a phone seems to be a necessary evil for these scenarios.  With this thought came thoughts of a smart phone with a GPS tracker.  Either that or an undercover spy.

Summertime ushers in a new school grade and increased freedom each year for our kids, except as a parent I never let go of my safety concerns!!  Which is why I am dabbling with the idea to get a smart phone for JB at almost twelve years old (like the HTC One S, I am trying it and I like it), and truthfully, I need to know more.  Which is why when I was asked to host an event for T-Mobile during which they were going to show-off their suite of safety apps and products, I jumped at the opportunity.

This Wednesday (6/27), I am excited to host and ATTEND an event at T-Mobile in Pittsburgh (at East Side) and demo their Family Where app that allows parents to set alarms to remind their tweens that it is time to do something (like come home), the Mobile Family Life Organizer with shared grocery lists (hello!!!) and Web Guard apps .  I would love to see each and every one of you there (you can register for the event here).  There will be apps-style food and fun with apps, and of course, swag bags and prizes.

Don’t worry if you don’t have kids (yet), there is a whole host of apps to protect our data on our phones that T-Mobile will also be sharing, like Lookout Mobile Security to backup your photos (hint!!).

In the meantime, check out T-Mobile on Twitter and Facebook and let me know this (I need as much help as I can get):

How do you use wireless devices to keep your kid(s) safe during the summer months? (in the pink comments section below)

….for a chance to WIN a Springboard Tablet ($429 value – which if I won, I could watch Mad Men all day streaming through Netflix).  Ok, I would work a bit on it, too.

Winner selected at random on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 10 p.m. EST.

Disclosure:  I am being compensated by T-Mobile to participate in the Safe Summers Campaign, which is of great importance to me.  All photos courtesy T-Mobile.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jenny from Mommin' It Up June 24, 2012, 8:31 AM

    What a fun giveaway! Wish I could attend the event with you! Since my kids are still little, I don’t know that I use devices to keep them safe yet – besides using my own iPhone to get us where we need to go. But my older nephews & nieces have phones so their parents can keep track of them when they are driving, at basketball camp, etc.
    Jenny from Mommin’ It Up recently posted..Til Senility Do Us PartMy Profile

  • Hollee June 24, 2012, 8:40 PM

    What a cool giveaway, Rach! My kids are also too little to have their own devices, but we are getting closer. I will share a funny story instead. Someone in the family (not naming names) is constantly losing his wallet. This time, instead of buying him a new wallet, I bought him one of those new cell phone cases that has room for three credit cards. And installed the Where’s My iPhone app. So now he can’t lose his wallet, as I can always find it:)
    Hollee recently posted..Hollee’s Appearance on Powermommy NationMy Profile

  • Chris Corcoran June 24, 2012, 8:43 PM

    I do use the Icloud/Iphone tracking device for my 13, 14 & 15 year olds. They’ve got longer leashes now, like going to the outdoor baseball complex a few miles away on their bikes, longboards and by foot. I don’t have to follow them around at Kennywood either… a simple text will let me know where to meet them. They’re starting to go to “parties” now… and I actually had one of them call me to ask permission to have a “Monster” drink. (to which I said no, but thanks for asking me first!) LOL! Teens & Tweens with phones + parents = peace of mind

  • MJ Moore June 24, 2012, 9:16 PM

    My kids are both under the age of five, but I think even they would be safer if I found a first aid app…

  • mara June 24, 2012, 9:53 PM

    Great post. I like your point about it really being up to each individual family regarding when to get a phone for their kid. I also agree with the ‘I pay for it. I own it philosophy’. there is a definite downside to making kids pay for their own phones i.e. it belongs to them, not the parents. The Blackberry and its use is the single most powerful weapon a parent has.

    It makes me crazy people who say they won’t give their kids a phone until they’re in high school or even older-this is how kids communicate. That’s like your mom saying you couldn’t use the phone if you grew up in the 1970s.
    mara recently posted..TIPS TO MAKE PACKING FOR SLEEPOVER CAMP A BREEZEMy Profile

  • Nicole Fende June 24, 2012, 11:09 PM

    With only one child who isn’t quite yet 4 I’m safe for a bit. Right now her main interest in phones is to see the pictures we’ve taken of her. LOL. However I can see the benefits once all the camps and after school stuff kicks in. I would go for the GPS tracking and probably internet lock or parental rating control on internet.
    Nicole Fende recently posted..For More Profit, Just Add QuirksMy Profile

  • Bret Stefan June 25, 2012, 1:56 AM

    Thanks for the nice information of attracting giveaway. Also i think, threre’s no need of cell phone to my kids before 15. Thanks for sharing.
    Bret Stefan recently posted..Keeping Up With The Kardashians: New Season Includes Kanye WestMy Profile

  • Sharon June 25, 2012, 10:31 AM

    Being a single mother my children have had cellphones for a while now. I work and they have to travel to and from school on their own so, phones are very necessary. With summer camp (for son) and daughter looking to work this summer . . . cellphones will continue to play an important role in our lives.
    I will be seeing you at the event. I can’t wait and I am not just saying that to win the tablet 🙂

  • Janie June 26, 2012, 11:58 AM

    My kids are still to young for cell phones, but I know I will have this dilemma soon.

  • Alona Bloom June 26, 2012, 12:30 PM

    Jordyn isn’t ready for a phone yet but I am sure it won’t be long!! Looking forward to the event tomorrow!

  • Becky June 26, 2012, 10:50 PM

    My kids aren’t old enough to use phones yet, but the oldest should probably learn to Call for help. My husband and I use our phones to keep tabs on family happenings, so I am sure they’ll be ready when the time comes.

    Thanks for this giveaway!
    Becky recently posted..Costume FearMy Profile

  • Melissa Schneider June 27, 2012, 9:18 AM

    I will defintely be showing this article to my husband as we debate what type of phone to get our 10 yo daughter. Our son got his when he was 10 for reasons similar to yours but that one was not very text friendly. Last year we let him upgrade to a texting phone and found his actual calling skills ( “what??!! I have to actually speak to my friend on the phone??!!”) to really suffer.

  • Dana June 27, 2012, 4:44 PM

    Great event today. What used to seem like such a luxury now seems to be a necessary safety measure.

    • Rachel Blaufeld June 27, 2012, 9:05 PM

      Dana — I really agree. You hit the nail on the head.

  • Cindy Entin June 28, 2012, 7:48 PM

    My daughter is almost 6 and my husband and I need to hide our iPhones from her because she has recently become obsessed with playing games and making videos!!

    P.S. My laptop is missing 4 keys because my 2 1/2 yr. old is now into hi-tech toys, too! I could so use that new tablet you are giving away! : )