If You Can Not Beat Them, Text Them

Dear Mr. Dad: We recently got our teenage daughter her own cell phone. We held off for a long time, thinking we’d wait until she was mature enough to handle the responsibility. Looks like we were a little premature. She’s gone over the limit (mostly text messages) for the past two months, and nothing we say seems to sink in. Is there some way to cure her of this?

A: Welcome to the club. My 17-year old actually had several months with over 7,000 texts (incoming and outgoing). If you’re doing the math, that’s nearly 250 every single day. And compared to some other teens I’ve heard about, my daughter was a rank amateur. Part of the problem is developmental. Teens’ brains—particularly the parts that help deal with consequences—aren’t fully formed (and won’t be until their early 20s). But that doesn’t let them off the hook. Bottom line is that you can teach them better habits.
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Does your child really need a cell phone?

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter turns ten next week and has made it known that she expects, needs, yearns for, and won’t be able to live without a cell phone. “Everybody has one,” she says. Is she too young? I’m not even sure I know what the issues are, but it seems like opening a huge can of worms.

A: When I was a kid, the rules about cell phones were simple. Oh wait, we didn’t have cell phones at all, which explains why you’re not up on the issues. So let’s start with a few advantages.

  • Cell phones allow you and your kids to stay in touch. The additional safety and security that this provides is—at least from your perspective—the greatest benefit. Your daughter can call if she needs you, and you can call her if you need to know where she is and what she’s doing.
  • Many parents (mostly those with children older than your daughter) use cell phones as a small-scale introduction to adult responsibilities—everything from paying the bill and staying within monthly minutes to keeping it charged.

At the same time, there are some potential downsides. Whether they outweigh the benefits is your call.

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