This is the fifth and final article in our series on tweens & cell phones.
Some parents arm their tween with a phone so he/she can be like E.T., and phone home. A reason parents often cite for getting tweens a cell phone is that they want to keep tweens safe. A cell phone can answer the following safety questions:
1. Who you gonna call?
With a cell phone, tweens can easily contact 911 in the case of an emergency.
The ability of a tween to reach a parent when needed, and vice versa, bring peace of mind. Several parents have told me that their child has a cell phone purely for these purposes.
Sadly, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO, illustrates these points. Many people called 911 from inside the theater, and family members were needing to locate each other.
2. Where is your tween?
A GPS locator on their cell phone can give you the answer to that question, if they have their phone with them. Many plans have GPS locator, some including in the cost of the plan, and some charging extra.
I first started thinking about a cell phone for my child when she was out with another family. When my child wasn't home at the appointed time and the parents weren't answering their phone, I started to worry. It was the first time I didn't know where my child was, and it was very scary. It would have been nice to contact my child directly to know exactly where she was and that she was okay.
God forbid, if something worse were to happen to her, like being abducted, a GPS locator could be helpful in finding her. I realize that is extreme, but the news of children disappearing is scary.
3. When do you need me to pick you up?
Not sure what time practice will be over? A tween can use a phone to call and alert a parent that he/she needs to be picked up, for a variety of reasons.
A cell phone can be a kid's way out of a risky situation, or an environment that makes them uncomfortable.
It can also act as insurance for scheduling miscommunications. My husband dropped my daughter off at daycamp on a Friday per my instructions and headed off to work. Problem was, there was no camp on that day. I had misread the schedule. Fortunately, she caught him before he left the parking lot, but what if she had not? A cell phone could have ensured a safe way home, and taken away some of her anxiety, as well as the anxiety I felt on learning how stupid I had been and how it was scary for her. I'm thinking that her having a cell phone is insurance against my own stupidity.
My tween's friend was telling me about a practice where the coach didn't show up and there was no supervising adult. A cell phone could keep them safe in that instance, too.
Sign a contract
I remember my mom always asking me before I left the house when I was in middle school, "Do you have a quarter?" to make sure I could contact her, but pay phones are a thing of the past. I'm starting to think that if I want my tween to have a way to get in touch with me when she needs to do so, a cell phone is in order. I'm not certain that she's ready, but when we do get to that point, I plan to have her sign a contract.
If the phone is for the tween's safety, it's important to make that clear and also to keep tweens safe themselves. Many websites have examples of contracts family members can sign regarding cell phone usage and safety so that everyone in the family is literally on the same page. Check out this one, which includes commitments by parents, or this one from Kajeet, which addresses the financial issues. Tailor them to fit your family's needs when/if your tween gets a cell phone.