In this day and age, cell phones can be a blessing. When I'm driving out of town, I appreciate being able to communicate with my family in case there is an emergency, car troubles, or just to say, "I love you."
Cell phones weren't always an everyday part of our lives. I think I was the last person amongst all of my friends and relatives to finally buy a cell phone! My husband had use of a work cell phone provided by his company, but he kept almost all calls to a minimum except for work-related calls. For me, we bought a TracFone that only costs $6 - $7 per month, right within our budget!
Our girls have asked us when they will have a cell phone of their own. We've told them that we'll help with that when they are 16 and driving around on their own. Of course, until then, they'll borrow my phone from time to time, when it is appropriate, but since I try to stretch out 800 minutes over a full year's time (I know, don't gasp!), they know that they can't use it to just chat with their friends. It's only in case they need to reach me to ask a question.
But they won't have complete freedom with their phones.
Every single family will have their own cell phone rules and responsibilities. Here are ours. We believe that some important ground rules will need to be set. For example, the last thing we want to see is our girls with a group of friends, and instead of everyone visiting and enjoying each other's company, they are all on their own phones, texting and browsing. They may think this is fun, but we aren't going to encourage this at all. This discourages "live" communication, and when I walk around and see a group of teens and adults just staring at their phone screens, instead of building relationships with each other, that discourages me. How sad.
When I graduated from high school in the 1980s, people would tell my parents that they enjoyed being around us because we children (teens at that point) would actually talk with them when they asked us a question. Since my sister and I were pretty shy back then, I'd say that a lot of this had to do with us sitting together at the dinner table each night, even through the high school years, and talking together as a family. We didn't always want to be sitting there as long as we did, but it was very good for our communication and listening skills!
Here are some other ground rules we'll set for our daughters' cell phone usage:
1. Elmer and I will be keeping track of their phone calls and texts. If they end up having something other than a TracFone, we'll make note of who they are calling, and if we don't recognize any phone numbers, we'll find out who they are from. Yes, this means that we'll need to go through the cell phone bill each month, but this is important, and it provides our children with a sense of accountability. We'll also have them make a Friends List of regular phone numbers so that we can more easily recognize who their close friends are.
2. Our children's cell phones will be checked in to us at night, before they go to bed. There's no reason they would need a cell phone at night while they are supposed to be sleeping! If there is a true emergency, their friends can always call us on our home phone. This helps eliminate temptations to stay up or be woken up at all hours of the night. I know lots of adults who complain about receiving texts and calls during the night, and how their sleep is disrupted. Well, that's a simple one to fix: turn them off! (Unless required to have it on due to work commitments and responsibilities.)
3. Disable the internet or pay to have the content filtered. While it is the hottest rage right now to have unlimited internet access on a smart phone or iPad Touch, it is also providing a huge temptation to access pornography and other immoral uses of the internet, without any controls in place. Obviously, when our children are adults and on their own, they will need to manage this temptation themselves, but even for my hubby and I, we pay each month to have our own computers kept free and clear of pornography and inappropriate content. We don't want to see it, either. We don't want to be tempted. If I ever own a smart phone, I, too, will pay extra money each month to have the content filtered.
4. If our family rules about cell phone use are broken, we will quietly take the cell phone away for a period of time. We've monitored and encouraged our children to have a heart for obedience and love toward Christ since they were babies, so why would this stop now? They're not 18 yet!
5. We will limit the amount of texting allowed on their phones, or pay for a service that will allow us to access their text messages from our own phones, if that is an option in a few years' time when we'll be providing them with a cell phone. I know, everyone and their dog will think that we are very strange to allow them to have only limited texting or "non-private" texting, but we feel the same way if it was excessive use of our home telephone or them doing anything that would take up a majority of their day. To many teens and young adults, as well as some adults I know, texting has become a "god." If they don't have their phone for a day, they feel lost and useless. I think this is sad!
6. While in a conversation with another person or an adult, we will encourage our children to not interrupt the conversation by answering a phone call or text. It is impolite to set aside one conversation with a person and allow ourselves to be interrupted by a phone call. We are able to see at a glance who made the call or sent the message, but we can always return the call later. We have the same rule when we have company in our home. If adult friends and family are visiting, we generally don't interrupt our visit to answer the phone. I let my answering machine pick up the call and take a message. That's its purpose!
Now, what about emergencies? Well, our family members know that if we don't answer the phone right away, and it is an emergency, they should call back immediately a second time. There have been a couple of times when I've realized it was an emergency, and I needed to take the call, even when we've had company at our home. But this has been rare.
7. We will teach our daughters not to say their phone number, their name, or other personal information aloud in public places or crowded settings. Anyone could remember their name and phone number and use that information in a negative way.
8. Don't text or use your cell phone while walking, especially while crossing a street or walking at night. When my girls were younger, they often wanted to continue reading "just one more page" while walking from the car to the grocery store, or when out and about and leaving the car or the library with their book. I wouldn't let them read while walking. It's really important to be able to take note of your surroundings and be aware of what is going on around you at all times. Reading a book, texting, or talking on a cell phone while walking around town leaves a person distracted and unable to provide full attention to his or her surroundings. This is especially important for girls and women to remember.
9. They should only share their cell phone numbers with people whom they know and trust, and they should never respond to text messages from an unknown or unrecognizable number. There are methods to block suspicious or unknown calls on cell phones, and for good reason.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!
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