The "why" behind our cell phone decision

Yesterday, a blog friend asked why my husband and I feel cell phones are “bad” for our kids. I’d like to share with you the “why” behind our decision.
First, we don’t think cell phones are necessarily bad for kids. We just don’t think they need them before they are driving. When they begin driving—usually at 16—we get them a cell phone. They will need it for safety purposes, at that point.
Second, it’s an “access” issue. When kids have a cell phone, it suddenly takes the parent out of the middle and gives kids direct access to one another. Because my 13-year-old doesn’t have a phone, I know who he’s talking to on the phone, because they have to call the house phone. If he occasionally wants to text someone, he uses my phone. A personal cell phone gives kids an independance in communication that they are not always mature enough to handle. And it gives other kids access to them in a way that I’m not willing to risk.
Third, we can’t afford it. Adding another line to the family plan requires us to add more minutes. Those kinds of expenses add up and we’d rather feed our children than provide them a cell phone just because everyone else has one.
I will admit, there are times that our decision is inconvenient. Yes, there are occasions that I wish I could call my student…like when I’m running behind to pick them up from somewhere. I also know of families who do the cell phone thing because they no longer have a home phone. But even then, some families choose to do a cell phone that simply stays at home rather than one that each kid carries around.
And honestly, our “age 16/driving” boundary has become harder with each of our children. Why? Because culture is changing. When we set the “age 16/driving” boundary with our older kids almost 10 years ago, every kid on the block didn’t have a cell phone. Now my 13-year-old and 15-year-old are indeed a rarity.
But Mark and I refuse to stoop to adult peer pressure. In fact, that’s why we wrote the next Hearts at Home book, Living With Less So Your Family Has More. (It will release in February 2010.)
We alone will decide what’s best for our kids. And for the Savage’s, we’ve decided that having a phone before we have determined you actually “need” one is one parenting boundary we currently have in place.

PS. For my reader who shared the post with her 15-year-old son who wanted to know what an “early” bedtime was for my boys. It’s 8:30-8:45pm. Your 9:15pm bedtime should look really good for your son now!

Life is So Unfair!

So my 13-year-old son wants the world to know that he is the ONLY kid in 8th grade who doesn’t have a cell phone. I told him I was happy to tell the world for him. After all, I think it’s only fair for people to know how unfair Mark and I are to our children.

And honestly, it’s far worse than cell phones. For instance:
  • We don’t let them stay on the computer for endless hours. We set the timer to indicate when it’s time to get off.
  • We actually have certain days of the week that we don’t even allow screens—no TV screens, no computer screens, no video screens.
  • We don’t allow them to see just any movie with a PG or PG 13 rating. We actually check out the content and then decide. It’s so very unfair.
  • We require them to go to bed early on school nights.
  • They have to take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, run the vacuum, and care for their animals. Can you believe it?
  • On the weekends they have to help mow the grass which is no small task on our 2.5 acre yard.
  • They also have to help feed and care for the animals we own. The nerve.
Life is so very unfair.
So, of course, because we’re so unfair we occasionally allow them to do some fun things to make up for it all. Like last month, for example, when we allowed the 13-year-old to have a slumber party for his birthday. Of course they played flashlight tag outside in that great big yard he helped mow, slept on that floor he helped vacuum, and dirtied enough dishes to fill the dishwasher he helps empty a few times each week. I then baked cookies at midnight and served them right along with cake and ice cream. Wow, that made up for all that unfairness…at least for that week!
As for the 15-year-old, when he asked on the same evening at 8:30pm, “Mom, can I go to a late movie with a friend?” my response was “You know, that sounds like a fun thing to do on a Friday night. Sure, see if you can find someone to go with you.” Once plans were made, I ferried the two boys to the movie theatre at 9:45pm and picked them up at midnight. It’s not like I’d be sleeping, and it was a great opportunity to make up for all that unfairness around the Savage home.
If life is unfair around your home, don’t worry. You may make different unfair decisions for your children based upon your own values, but you are not alone.
And by the way, if you work for a landline phone company, please leave a few pay phones out there. After all, my teenagers don’t have cell phones…and they just might need to call their unfair home!