Cell Phone Usage: setting boundaries
Children in households across America roll their eyes when their parents say: "when I was your age, I never had a cell phone...", an introduction to a tyrade about how cell phone usage is a privilege, yadda, yadda, yadda. (If you haven't already, perhaps it's worth visiting the post: "Kids & Cell Phones: yes? no? when? how?")
Our middle-schooler has been using a cell phone since she started coming home alone afterschool last fall. When no one else is home, she will go into the drawer where it is kept, retrieve the cell phone, and text us to let us know she is home. She does not take the phone to school. She is not allowed to use her phone to text/call friends during the week.
One day last week, my mid-day run in the neighborhood ended at her school, thinking we could run home together. I waited for her outside of the bike cage. As she turned the corner, I was surprised to see her fiddling with her phone as she walked toward me. When whe finally looked up, she gave a start. For a split second, she tried to hide the phone, but she knew there was no point.
We had a long talk with her that night about her usage, and she was so sad to think about how she defied us. We agreed that she wouldn't have use of her phone at all for the next week.
It was a quiet weekend for the family. There was plenty of down-time reading the new library books. She was lying in her bed, reading, when I came into her room. I said: "what are you doing?" She responded: "Reading, what does it look like?" Noting her tone of defensiveness, I asked: "where's your phone?" She pointed to under her pillow. From its depths, I removed the hot piece of equipment; its internal temperature signaled recent long usage. I flicked it on and saw that she was mid-game, with thousands of points racked up.
I took the phone back and left her to finish her book. Curious about the cell phone usage - and amazed that I hadn't been this curious previously - I went online to check our usage summary. I was disappointed - but I suppose I wasn't too surprised - to see this:
Later in the day, we found that my husband's phone had been disconnected/suspended, due to the overage in fees as well as late pays. (We have an ongoing payment set up, since we rarely have any cost overages)
In an effort to get his phone line reactivated, we spent a long while on the phone with an agent at our wireless phone company. When the agent saw our text message overage, she said "wow" under her breath. She was impressed. Then, she said that, from the perspective of the mother of two teenagers, kids these days just use text to communicate about everything. She said each of her kids average about 5,000 texts a month. She also counseled us on a few options (for additional monthly fees, of course) that would allow us varying degrees of control of the account: we could susupend service at certain points of the day (from 8am to 3pm, and from 8pm to 8am), allow service only to specific phone numbers (parents, family, select friends), elect for automatic shut-off once maximums were reached (maximum text or data usage). I suppose we do have many options to exercise control.
We are so new to all of this, and I am so curious how you and your tweens/teens have agreed upon boundaries for their cell phones. Have you decided upon a maximum usage plan, then insisted upon their adherance? Have you and they both compromised on an in-between plan? What about parental controls: have you used these options, even incurring additional fees? Any of these services worth the cost and control?