Ever since I gave Mark a cell phone for Christmas, some of you have asked how our experiment has gone. Since it keeps coming up, Iâ€™ll post my response here.
- Mark still has the cell phone which is a good sign. He has taken really good care of it. He doesnâ€™t take it to school but picks it up from home or Wendy on route to the babysitter. The phone doesnâ€™t have a case so we bought him a generic padded pouch that works fine and it gets used when he heads up to the cabin or we are travelling and he doesnâ€™t want it in his pocket the entire time.
- He has been really good for carrying it with him. Since Christmas he has only forgotten to take it to the sitter once and one time he forgot to charge it, a track record that is better than Wendyâ€™s or mine.
- His main practical use for it is to text me to see what time I am picking him up and then I text him when I leave work to let him and Oliver know itâ€™s time to head home. He also has been inspired by the nodding scene in Itâ€™s a Trap and sends many text messages a day to Wendy, Lee, or I that just says, â€œnodâ€ which starts a flurry of text messages that goes back and forth between all of us that just say, â€œnodâ€. Itâ€™s nice to know that none of us are more mature than the ten year old in our house.
- His pre-paid plan (through Virgin Mobile) is for 200 minutes a month. He may use 10 minutes and that includes Wendy and I going, â€œLend me your cell phone, my battery is low and I need to make a callâ€ a couple times a month.
- He does text a lot but that is to Wendy, my brother Lee and myself. He also texts some friends of ours from time to time. As far as I know, he doesnâ€™t text anyone he goes to school with and it has never been a problem.
The only bad part of it that his phone doesnâ€™t have a SD card which he really wants to upload photos to Flickr. Virginâ€™s picture text service is brutal and just doesnâ€™t work with Flickr so getting his photos to the computer is a pain.
It hasnâ€™t been without some problems. I had to talk to him about was that he needed to stop fiddling with his ring tones all of time. After a while he stopped answering his phone, partly because it never clicked in that I was calling. He also ignores the 611 txts from Virgin letting him know his month was coming to a close which annoyed me a bit as twice his phone stopped working. Once he clicked in that telling me was his responsibility, he got it.
In the end, I have no regrets getting him the phone. It has taught him some responsibility, gave him some more freedom to roam, and he feels more connected to his uncle Lee and some of our family friends than every before. All are good things. While I have told Mark that there is no way I am going to get him a Blackberry or a smart phone unless he is enrolled in university, I wouldnâ€™t have a problem with him saving up and buying himself an upgraded feature phone.
I know getting kids a cell phone has been a disaster for some families but we gave Mark a prepaid plan and laid out the ground rules right away and Mark has been fine with it. Every once in a while Mark will ask for a little money for a ring tone or a game but I am in control of that so there isnâ€™t anything unexpected. I have never understood parents who give their kids contracts and then are horrified when they see the bill. There is a reason that children canâ€™t sign contracts in this country, they canâ€™t understand what they are getting into which is why we are happy with Virginâ€™s prepaid service but I am sure SaskTel or Rogers prepaid would work just as well.