The Chat: Dialing up cellphone rules for kids

Connie Iezzi, contributor to "The Chat."

Jen: My Jen's World column a couple weeks ago was on kids and cellphones. What's your stance? Do your tweens have cell phones?

Connie: My kids both have cellphones.

Missie: I don't think cell phones are the culprit — it's how they are occasionally used. Listen to me, I sound like the gun advocates.

Jen: Right: "It's not dangerous in the right hands."

Connie: My son, Lucas, got his in second grade when he went to an all-day camp far from home all by himself. He still has it, but he doesn't use it much and it was inactive for about two years. My daughter Sophia has one because her brother had one. She bought a Tracfone with her own money.


Missie: I don't think it's terrible for kids to have phones — I actually gave my 11- and 12-year-olds Tracfones last year so they could call me from ski club, just in case they broke a bone — in which case I'm sure they couldn't have dialed anyway. Oh, and they were only able to get reception at the top of the hill. So … virtually useless.

Connie: Sophia put an iPhone on her Christmas list this year.

Jen: How did that go over?

Connie: There was no iPhone for Christmas — but she can dream! I don't think there will be an iPhone, even if they were free.

Missie: There's too much access on those things. Even if you trust your kids, the Internet routes them to places they don't even realize. Before they know it, they're looking at porn.

Connie: Exactly. Sophia would probably just Google pictures of Justin Bieber all night, but that is bad enough!

Jen: So your verdict is that phones are OK. Smart phones with Internet, not OK. (Sorry, Biebs.)

Connie: Yes. Phones are OK, especially for those emergency situations. But iPhones or smartphones offer too much information — and too much distraction! They already have enough to distract them.


Jen: What are your "phone rules?"

Missie: Their phones go on the desk, by me, at bedtime — right next to the iPods.

Jen: I don't have hard and fast rules printed anywhere. But there are expectations. For instance, I have full access. If I want to look at my son's history or texts, I'm allowed.

Connie: Me, too — and I do. I mostly see silly photos and "Hey." They aren't writing anything earth-shattering right now.

Missie: I often nab my 12-year-old's phone when he's not looking and read past texts, just to make sure.

Jen: Same rules apply for Skype chats on the iPod. They have to tell me their passwords, too.

Common sense stuff.

Missie: I think we can all agree it's the iPods that are the real problem in our houses!


Connie: I do have a bigger problem with the iPod. It's an attention sucker. My kids can't use the iPod or computer during the week unless it's for school.

Jen: The iPod is the best when it comes to holding something over their heads. All I have to say is, "Hand me your iPod," and they know they're in trouble.

Missie: My son's has been on the refrigerator for an entire week.

Connie: Sometimes I take the iPod and forget where I put it!

Missie: Back to cell phones — my kids rarely use them for actual talking.

Jen: The only time my kids talk on cell phones is when their grandparents or I call them. They really should be doing more talking. It's such an important social skill for their whole lives.

Connie: I understand that texting is faster, but whatever happened to using appropriate phone skills or face-to-face interaction skills? I once told my kids to go "call for" a neighbor. They looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I said, "You know, like ring the bell and ask them to play?"

Jen: I miss the pre-cellphone days.


Missie: And corded phones.

Jen: I like not being able to be reached.

Connie: There was a time when none of us had cell phones, or even call-waiting on our home phones. People actually had to leave a message. Or, wait for it, call for someone, face-to-face.

Jen: Oh, the horror!

Missie: But don't you just ignore your phone sometimes?

Jen: I do. I definitely don't feel like I'm a slave to it. If I hear it ring and I'm busy with something else, I don't go running. If it's important, they'll leave a message or call back. I hope some of that rubs off on my kids. It drives me crazy to see people who are attached to their phones, who answer it no matter what's going on.

Missie: I do think that some kids struggle with that same issue. They can't ignore their phones. Kids need to get away from their social network sometimes. Take a break.

Jen: When we were talking about this on Facebook earlier this week, one of my friends said their kid's phone consists of two cans with a string between them. That might be nice.

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