At long last we’ve found a happy medium. My seventh grader got his much-desired smart phone this summer and everything I dreaded about it hasn’t happened (knock on wood). He’s not on it 24/7 or even head down, zoned out, while we’re in public places. That was our first social stipulation about getting such a device.
It hasn’t been as all or nothing as I thought and we’re finding a system that works for us. He keeps it in a common area to charge and he doesn’t take it to school every day because he doesn’t need the distraction. Though I know the time is near when coaches and teachers will expect him to have one, I’m constantly reminded at his age it’s the apps he wants and not so much (yet) a connection to call home or friends.
Good things have even come from the experience. When once I worried he’d be negligent with such an expensive piece of equipment, we settled that by having him buy it with his own money. He’s been asking to pay for it for over a year and we finally said yes. From the start, I’ve never seen him care for something so well. He also opted for the much less expensive iPhone 5C, which I’m not sure he would’ve been as happy about if we’d picked up the price tag.
In one of my husband’s more genius moves, he captured all our other ongoing concerns in the following contract, which was delivered at the same time as our approval:
I will buy the phone and pay the taxes and fees.
Even though I paid for the phone with my own money, I do not own it. Mom and Dad may take it away from me at any time for any reason.
I do not have unrestricted use of my phone. iTouch rules still apply.
I have no expectation of privacy. I will share all of my passwords with Mom and Dad, who have permission to inspect anything on my phone at any time.
I am responsible for paying the monthly service fee, currently $40 per month. Payment is due to Mom or Dad on the 5th day of each month. If I lose or break my phone, or if it is taken away from me for any reason, I am still responsible for paying the monthly fee.
The service plan includes unlimited talk and text, but a fixed amount of data. My allocation is 2 GB per month. If I exceed this I will pay for my additional usage, currently $15 per GB.
I will maintain an average grade of 90.0% (according to Jupiter Grades) at all times. My lowest grade in any class will not fall below 85.0%. If I fail to meet either of these conditions, Mom and Dad may take away my phone until they are met.
“It’s like indentured servitude,” my husband explained to me in private, yet our son signed the contract so fast it was clear how much owning a phone had become his own Red Ryder bb gun, courtesy of “The Christmas Story.”
I’m glad we waited more than a year since he first really started asking for a phone. It gave us time to work out the kinks that mattered to us. “Don’t just hand it to him on a silver platter,” a mother of an eighth grader warned me when we were still on the fence, then told me how she’s now having to enforce stricter rules after not having many.
Besides a greater appreciation for a phone even under such strict guidelines, the other nice thing to see is our seventh grader is suddenly thrifty with a dollar and much more eager to find paying work to cover his new monthly bill.