So the thirteen year old has a cell phone. Now I realize some of you out there will be saying, "yeah so, what took you so long?" and others will be saying, "seriously, thirteen? Nope, wouldn't happen in my house!" And that's fine. All of that is fine. You know yourself and your family far better than I do. So you go right ahead and rock on with your bad self.
It should be noted that the cell phone decision did not come about lightly. Nope, it's been a topic of discussion for the better part of two years, between Mike and I and just as many that included the teenager. Prior to having children of my own, I was firmly in the "They can get a cellphone when they can pay for it themselves" camp. The world and I have changed, a lot, since those days. The teenager clearly does not have any form of regular income that doesn't come out of my bank account, so yes we are footing the bill. There is an expectation that, in return, we shouldn't have to ask 500 times for her to pitch in around the house. In general she's a pretty decent kid in that regard so there was no real worries.
I think the biggest tipping point for us, was her finishing up her first year of middle school. She was involved with some things that required her to stay late at school. She also joined some clubs, made some new friends and just in general was spending more time independent of her family and close friends. We live in a rural area and there are very very few places she can walk to. Every where requires a ride, which is fine. We choose to live here, but it gave us peace of mind for her to be able to get in touch with us or another trusted adult independent of who she was out with.
Trusted adults, before she even had her pone in her hands, I had loaded her contact list with the names and phone numbers of people she could call/text if the situation ever arose. She may have memorized our home number and our cells, but what if she couldn't reach either of us? Again, just for our own peace of mind it is nice for her to have the numbers of those people. Her plan comes with free evenings/weekends, unlimited texting and enough any time minutes, no data. At this age, I feel the internet on a cell phone is a secondary function. There is wifi just about everywhere and we went for quite some time with her just having an ipod with a wifi connection and she was able to text us, but the app was only so so. It wouldn't always let me know that she had texted me.
The rules for the phone are not that much different from the ipod. I have her pass code and I do random spot checks. She texts her Dad and I the most, but she's not a heavy duty texter. She has facebook, instagram and some games on it, but she knows which apps I am not cool with. We also need to discuss apps she would like to put on her phone. I don't constantly hover over her because she's fairly trouble free and we want to afford her a certain amount of respect and privacy, but I keep myself in the mix just enough. There isn't a time she needs to hand the phone over, she's a kid that likes her sleep, so her staying up late texting her friends is not something I worry about, also see above, not a big player in the texting game.
For us, it was important, as is true with most things, to really know who and what you're dealing with. As I have mentioned many times I parent with my words, I spend a lot of time talking with my kids so I feel I have a fairly good grasp on what they can handle. I also make sure to be explicitly clear on what my expectations are and the consequences should they not be met. Reading that last sentence it sounds a little heavy handed, but I never ask for anything at an unreasonable level. The foundation to all of my expectations when it comes to my kids is be kind, be respectful, be polite and have some empathy. Not everything, everyone or every situation is going to go your way or be your cup of tea, but that is never an excuse to abandon those ideals.