Cell Phone for a Six Year Old

The Right Call

With type one diabetes I haven’t allowed my daughter to go down the road yet, let alone a sleepover with friends. And now … well, the invitations likely won’t flow anyway now that I’m probably going to be known as “that parent,” the one who gave her 6-year-old a cell phone.

“I need a cell phone for my 6-year-old.”

The words sounded as absurd as I feared they would as I stood defiantly in front of the Verizon guy at BJs in Pittsfield. After all, what kind of crazy mom buys a cell phone for a first-grader?

The Verizon guy, though, barely blinked. “What do you need?” he asked in a casual tone that made me wonder if he has seen this situation before.

He didn’t ask, but I felt compelled to explain all the same. “She has a medical condition and I need her to have a phone so she can call home if she needs to from wherever she is,” I said.

This was a huge step for me. I barely use my own cell phone, and I have been known to publicly complain about the rude, self-centered generation we are raising with their noses buried in the latest text message.

But I put those feelings aside to give my daughter Noelle a phone — and some independence, despite her type one diabetes.

We tested out the theory before the big purchase by sending her to karate camp a half-mile away from our home in Williamstown with a spare phone and instructions to call after she tested her blood glucose at snack time. It worked perfectly, but it was a bittersweet celebration when she came home from camp and got her high-fives.

Even taking the diabetes out of the equation, letting go of a young child is not easy. As parents, we watch them crawl and toddle and skip and jump farther and farther away from us as they grow. Which is how it’s supposed to be, of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Add a serious medical condition to the equation, and allowing for the normal progression of independence becomes an extreme challenge. Some of Noelle’s friends are having sleepovers; I haven’t allowed her to go down that road yet. I would have to come along, and who wants me camping out on their couch for the night? Or I would have to host every time, and who wants other kids in their house all the time?

And now … well, the invitations likely won’t flow anyway now that I’m probably going to be known as “that parent,” the one who gave her 6-year-old a cell phone, which is sure to prompt lots of “but Noelle has one” whines from her friends.

“Don’t you dare tell anyone you sold me a phone for a 6-year-old,” I threatened the Verizon guy as he rang up my purchase, a pay-as-you-go basic flip phone that he helped me program our numbers into as speed dial choices — and helped me block texting, music and a few other features that a smart kid like Noelle might be able to figure out with time.

Noelle proudly carried her new phone around BJs as we continued shopping. I let her test it in the car with a call to her Auntie Missy and take pictures on it to her heart’s content.

On the ride home, I turned and smiled at her as she practiced turning the phone on and off.

“I’m so proud of you,” I told her. She smiled back and flipped the phone closed.


Rebecca Dravis

Pittsfield native Rebecca Dravis is a former journalist who lives in north Berkshire County with her husband and daughter in Williamstown, MA. In Just My Type Rebecca shares her experiences as a parent raising a child with type one diabetes. – Check out Just My Type on the third Monday of every month.

[Photo credit: (ccl) fensterbme]

The Great Cellphone Debate: What’s the Right Age?

Discussion: Cellphone Use

Over at Common Sense Media (great resource!), the Editor-in-Chief asks “What’s the Right Age” for your child to have a cell phone?  What do you folks think?  Many homes in the hilltowns don’t get cell phone reception, so for now it might not be something that is even feasible.  But what about families with older kids that travel about and need to be in touch with one another?  How do you manage your child’s cell phone use?  When and under what circumstances do you allow you child to have a cell phone?  Post your comments below.

Here’s what Ms. Perle writes:

My daughter got her first cell phone in 7th grade (after much lobbying, whining, begging, and squabbling). Because she took public transportation home from school, my husband and I decided it was a good idea from a safety standpoint. There were no texts, the phone couldn’t take pictures, she was told how many minutes were allowed, and we did take it away from her as a punishment once (and it was very effective). Flash forward to the next child, four years her junior. He got a phone in 6th grade, mostly for the same reasons. But technology had moved on, and his came with text and photo ability, not to mention games. By then, our daughter had also become a text messaging ninja, and we’d upgraded our plan for unlimited texts (a very wise move) and replacement insurance (ditto).

But what’s the right age for kids to get cell phones, and what functions are age appropriate? This question is best answered by asking other questions: How independent are your kids? Do your children “need” to be in touch for safety reasons — or social ones? How responsible are they? Can they get behind the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded? Can they be trusted not to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, and to use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly (and not to embarrass or harass others)?

Just remember: When you hand kids phones today, you’re giving them powerful communications and production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to Web sites. If you think your child’s technological savvy is greater than their ability to use it wisely, pay attention to the gap. We’re still the parents. And it’s our job to say “no, not yet.”

via The Great Cellphone Debate: What’s the Right Age?.

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