Cell phones and kids

by Louise

Cell phones – particularly as it concerns kids. I am finding that a lot of parents of older kids are taking phones away as discipline tools. What about the younger kids ? I see cell phones quietly being given to keep kids entertained. Of course there is question of when to give kids a cell phone – what is the Totebag consensus ?

I find myself texting my kids after they leave the house and before they begin school and conversely they text me when they are done with school – all mundane matters. Is that good or bad ?

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111 thoughts on “Cell phones and kids

  1. We got our kids phones when they started middle school. That seemed to be a reasonable age, and most of their friends got them around then.

  2. DD got hers when she went to middle school (she walks home and is home alone for a bit, we have no land line phone). We will do the same with DS when the time comes. I know a couple of moms who did not do this at the beginning of middle school, but gave in after a couple of months. The only time she and I text during school is if there is some change to plans that we already had in place. Typically it is if I can help to get her a ride home in bad weather. She has gotten good at finding people to drive her home if needed, though.

  3. I am on the lax end with cell phones. Both kids got cell phones in 6th grade. Both of them have nice phones (iPhone X and 7 for DS1 and DS2 respectively). I know their passwords and they agree to give me access to their phone at any time. They have learned to put away their cell phones when they need to buckle down with studying.

    My problem is DH, who I think is totally addicted to his cell phone.

  4. By the time your kids get to high school, taking away their cell phone as a punishment is more of a punishment to you than to them. Not being able to reach them to find out where they need to be/at what time/with what they need, etc. is an inconvenience to mom and dad.

  5. We have a “home” cell phone for DD9 since she is old enough to stay home by herself and we do not have a landline. It doesn’t leave the house though. She can take it to school when she is in 6th grade. She uses it to play Minecraft and other things at home. The only rule is that it’s not allowed upstairs in her room, unless she is talking on the phone to someone, then she can have some privacy.

  6. My kids – 6th grade – do not have cell phones but want them. They do have iPads and therefore email addresses and therefore can text/message us and friends if they have WiFi access, which they do at school and home. So far DH and I don’t see a need for them to have phones.

  7. Thanks for all of the welcoming responses last week regarding my Gen Z post. I’m still “David in Alabama” but went with the shorter moniker. I did like the clever ADavidL recommendation but still too long.

    Cell phones in our house are granted at 13 years old and are absolutely used as a punishment tool. This is the age where responsibility is at a point in which they can handle a phone and we can get in touch with them when needed. We do load Life 360 and use that app to keep tabs on our two that are driving. DS #2, who recently turned 13 has proven already that his phone can’t be in his room at night. It is too tempting. And there are times, like dinner in a restaurant (even fast casual) in which all phones go face down on the table; even mom and dad’s. It’s a slippery slope on cell phones especially for active kids.

  8. My problem is DH, who I think is totally addicted to his cell phone.

    Many seem comfortable with the policies they have in place for their kids. But what about yourself?

    I’ve mentioned before being without my phone for 90 minutes at the mall and somewhat freaking out at having to be alone with my thoughts for 90 whole minutes. These days you’re constantly stimulated and a sudden cessation of that stimulation can be jarring. It doesn’t seem altogether healthy. I’d love some sort Passages Malibu rehab where I could just sit and watch the ocean and be bored for a while.

  9. For us, the phones usually stay downstairs charging once we go up to bed. My old/ancient iPhone SE now, in the past couple of months, goes into quasi ‘off the grid’ mode 11p-630a such that calls/email/txt notifications are off as the default. I haven’t yet run into a situation where I needed to change that.

  10. My DH didn’t have his cell phone yesterday because of a mix up. He called me from his office, but his day without a cell phone was not simple. He couldn’t use his monthly train ticket because it is on his phone. Luckily, the conductor knows him and he didn’t have to buy one on board. Metro North keeps pushing passengers to go paperless because it is cheaper for the railroad. He was unable to look at most personal emails because he works for a firm that blocks many web sites.
    His brother was trying to reach him all day, but only tried via text vs. a work number or work email. It was actually semi urgent because his wife’s mother passed away.

    His manager was in from out of town and took the team to a holiday dinner, so we had no way to reach him for about five hours since he wasn’t near a work phone or computer. I had no idea when he would walk through our front door.

    It wasn’t a big deal, but it was a hassle. The real issue is that most people had no idea that he wasn’t getting any text messages for 14 hours and they were getting pissed that he wasn’t responding. His firm allows them to use their personal cell phones for work stuff, but only if they agree to put some crazy protective software thing on to unlock the phone. There is a backup that I can do if there is an emergency, but I need some token thing so I couldn’t even open his phone to let people know that he didn’t have his cell.

    We got DD a cell phone when she entered middle school. It was probably too soon, but most kids got one at the same time in her grade. It does make it much easier to communicate and we know how challenging it can be since she doesn’t have access for the 7 weeks of camp. We have that experience of a teen without a cell, and while that can be wonderful, it can also be frustrating when you really want to reach the person.

    We used to take her away her phone for certain things, but we stopped using the phone as a consequence by age 12. I keep reading that all of the SV families do not allow their young kids to play with electronics and I am not surprised because it is so addictive. Scientists and doctors have studied brain patterns hat show that the same parts of the brain light up when you hear the ping vs. the parts that light up when you’re on an actual drug/stimulant.

  11. Both our kids got phones around MS, when they began coming home by themselves to an empty house with no landlines. They have both largely been responsible (with a few data-overage issues due to the fondness for YouTube at all times).

    We do keep all devices downstairs at bedtime (ours included), because we understand the lure and don’t want bad habits to form before the kids have enough maturity to manage the temptation. We did give DD permission to take her phone upstairs with her this fall, because she was having problems waking up and wanted to try a new alarm app, and we figured she’ll be on her own in a year anyway so might as well start giving some slack while we are here to catch any crash-and-burns. But so far she’s handling her [stuff], so no complaints here — I mean, I am going to assume she has periodically stayed up too late and all that stuff, but as long as she’s still getting up for school and maintaining her grades, it’s not a problem.

  12. BTW, I got a new iPhone last week. Apple was offering a trade in for the 6 and I got $200 for it so I finally upgraded to the latest phone. I only had 16GB on my old phone and it was almost 4 years old. I had to constantly delete photos and apps to use other stuff. My new phone has 64GB so I can have all of my apps on the phone. My photos are organized in Dropbox and Shutterfly since I had no choice about keeping the old photos.

    I love the speed of the new phone, but I like small phones and this one is a little too wide for me.
    I am having fun with the animojis, but I just wish that it was a little less accurate because my Animoji seems to frown a lot.

  13. Our kids got their own cell phones when they started taking the bus on their own to get to school (as opposed to us driving them). 6th grade for DD and 5th grade for DS. DS is now in 8th grade. One of his friends doesn’t have a cell phone which means the mom and I end up texting to coordinate (the kids had a joint project of putting up holiday lights for a neighbor which ended up taking several times). I found myself wishing that DS’ friend had her own phone so they could coordinate directly.

    All of keep our phones/devices downstairs when we go to bed. And no phones at dinner unless it’s to check on something that’s of general interest or to show something of general interest (e.g. DH isn’t on any social media sites so I was showing him the pictures DD had posted on Instagram of her Oregon trip).

    Just in the last two months, DS has stopped reading for fun (he was a huge reader) and has started spending a lot more time on his various devices. I haven’t quite figured out what (if anything) to do about this. DD also used to be a huge reader and now rarely reads for fun which makes me a little sad.

  14. “We have a “home” cell phone for DD9 since she is old enough to stay home by herself and we do not have a landline. It doesn’t leave the house though.”

    Do you have 9 DDs?

    I’m wondering about the logic of a SAH cell phone instead of a landline.

  15. “I did like the clever ADavidL recommendation but still too long.”

    How about shortening it to ADL?

    “And there are times, like dinner in a restaurant (even fast casual) in which all phones go face down on the table; even mom and dad’s.”

    That may work well for you, but it wouldn’t work for us.

    In my case, that would require me taking it out of its normal place in its case. That would also increase the likelihood of a phone being forgotten at the restaurant.

  16. I don’t have to set an example for anyone, but I can’t imagine leaving my phone downstairs at night. 1. It is my alarm. 2. If there is a puking grandkid, I am back up work childcare and need to know early in the am to change any plans. 3. I have do not disturb until 9 am on it with the exception for five family members. If I have early plans with someone, I put them on the exception list the night before and take them off afterwards.

  17. “By the time your kids get to high school, taking away their cell phone as a punishment is more of a punishment to you than to them. Not being able to reach them to find out where they need to be/at what time/with what they need, etc. is an inconvenience to mom and dad.”

    Have them turn in their phones when they get home, and let them have them when they leave.

  18. But I guess most of you get up at 6am. And do you actively stay up until older kids get home from dates, etc. to make sure they aren’t trying to get in touch? I do know parents who go to bed well before 10pm and get up at 5 am even on weekends.

  19. Our kids’ first phones were prepaid dumb phones, voice and text only, no internet access. Both got them in middle school, and were among the last of their peers to get phones. Some of DD’s friends had iPhones in the 2nd grade.

    DS got his first smart phone when he was a senior. DD got hers this year, because she was catching the bus a lot DW wanted her to have the bus app.

    A friend of ours got his kids iPhones when they were about 1st grade. His kids were in afterschool care, and the ASC classes would move around campus, so he used the phones to determine where to go to pick them up.

  20. “My kids – 6th grade – do not have cell phones but want them. They do have iPads and therefore email addresses and therefore can text/message us and friends if they have WiFi access, which they do at school and home. So far DH and I don’t see a need for them to have phones.”

    My kids had iPods to go with their dumb phones, so when they were at school, or anywhere else with wifi, they could do everything they could with smart phones except use up large amounts of data on phone plans.

  21. You all saw the news about this “landmark study” about screen time’s affect on kids’ brains, right? It seems like something real.

    Researchers have found that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens scored lower on thought and language tests than those who spent less time on smartphones and other electronic devices.

    They also found significant physical changes in the brains of those who spend more than seven hours a day using devices. It is unclear what the significance of this is, and researchers may not know the impact for years to come.
    https://boston.cbslocal.com/2018/12/10/study-screen-time-kids-adolescent-brains/

  22. July,

    They randomly assigned kids to use their devices X hours per day? If not then I’m not all that confident in their conclusions.

  23. My phone works only intermittently at work- I have to go outside to make calls and texts arrive only sometimes. I check it once or twice during the day and exchange only a few texts/month. When DH is traveling, I try to be diligent about carrying it and ensuring it connects periodically but if my kid is sick at school, he might end up waiting. DH has better reception and carries his phone on his person. DH and I communicate during the day by email. We both prefer not to be interrupted by nonurgent texts.

  24. “I can’t imagine leaving my phone downstairs at night”

    I’m with Meme on this, for similar reasons. I have two adult kids out at all hours and I’d hate to miss an urgent call from them or from anyone else.

    The constant communication between parent and child has bothered me a bit for years, but I recognize that there’s some good and some bad. The bad might be a tendency for the child to keep relying too much on parents instead of just growing up and dealing with life on their own.

  25. I got a smart phone mainly so I could sign up for any school events I wanted to attend. People would fill up slots quickly. I was behind my mom peers in this respect.
    We all have our phones on our nightstands or in the vicinity of our beds. Once the kids say goodnight they are supposed to put their phones away. DH or myself glance in but usually they are pretty good about it. We seem to be on the more lax side of device enforcement. One mom was telling me about this and that software, I couldn’t keep up. But then I come from parents who never controlled what I read or watched on TV

  26. I can relate to Lauren’s story about her husband forgetting his cell phone at home. Not having my phone is a hassle, creating problems with everyday tasks for which I’ve come to rely on my phone. Simple stuff like checking train schedules or checking a recipe for ingredients at the grocery store. And the feeling of being out of touch is a bit unnerving. I lived most of my life not being in constant touch with everyone, yet I’ve gotten so used to it being the norm. OTOH, our kids don’t know what it’s like to be out of touch.

  27. I wouldn’t take DS’s phone away as punishment any more than I’d keep him home from an activity. I’m trying to encourage social interaction here, not curtail it. Even a couple days, I fear, could lead to a long reversion to no contact.

    SSM, mine still reads, but generally novels that he read a few years ago. I keep meaning to look up a good list of books to read for the SAT. I wonder if the study July mentioned is part of it, with your kids and mine. I hope not!

    Fred, that’s probably the do no disturb mode Meme mentioned. You can change it in settings.

    I keep my phone with me at night. Given my parents’ age, and Moms proclivity not to mention problems until very, very late, if they are calling to say there is something wrong, we probably should’ve been in the car yesterday.

    Louise, my mom just got WhatsApp too. She likes how easy it can be, but still gets confused by threads. Also, she just texted me in response to my question about that Christmas decoration for my dad/his capacity for wonder. We exchanged a couple texts, then she announced she was in the middle of shopping and had to go. Wtf?

  28. @Kerri.

    “My kids – 6th grade – do not have cell phones but want them. They do have iPads and therefore email addresses and therefore can text/message us and friends if they have WiFi access, which they do at school and home. So far DH and I don’t see a need for them to have phones.”

    This exactly but a year younger. He doesn’t care yet – he has an iPad and is a horrible communicator anyway (like many boys his age). I assume he will need one in 7th grade when he will be getting himself to school/back and have more independent activities.

    I don’t have a philosophical reason for him not to have one, but I’m not adding the monthly data line until it’s necessary. Maybe I’ll give him an old phone of ours or maybe I’ll buy him a nice one. We’ll see.

  29. On texting throughout the day—we do. Never anything dire or highly emotional, but I value the connection, think it’s important if we need to talk about “big things”. And there were times in early teen years when we did text about that stuff within our own home, because it wasn’t as hard as talking about it.

  30. Do you have 9 DDs?

    I’m wondering about the logic of a SAH cell phone instead of a landline.

    LOL- my daughter is nine. Maybe we should have gone the landline route. We got rid of ours about 10 years ago and it seemed easier just to add a new line. The grandparents and relatives like to text occasionally, so it’s kind of fun for them too.

  31. We exchanged a couple texts, then she announced she was in the middle of shopping and had to go. Wtf?

    SM – I think it’s perfecly OK. My Mom and me will exchange WhapsApp messages and either one of us says “gotta go for blah blah”, we catch up the next day or just say “busy, will catch up later”.

  32. I am going to assume she has periodically stayed up too late and all that stuff, but as long as she’s still getting up for school and maintaining her grades, it’s not a problem.

    Yup. If staying up isn’t affecting them, then I don’t see a problem. It’s part of learning responsibility. As you said, better to screw up now than when the consequences could be worse.

    We seem to be on the more lax side of device enforcement. One mom was telling me about this and that software, I couldn’t keep up. But then I come from parents who never controlled what I read or watched on TV

    Same here, we’ve always been very lax with screen time, and my parents were very lax about it as well.

    We exchanged a couple texts, then she announced she was in the middle of shopping and had to go. Wtf?

    If this is all there was, then I’m not understanding your outrage. The is standard operating procedure IMO, no different than ending a phone call because you have to go do something.

  33. “I can’t imagine leaving my phone downstairs at night.”

    I should clarify: whenever anyone is out/gone, I bring my phone upstairs and just put it on do not disturb, so I don’t hear texts and emails and other alerts, but people can still call me in an emergency.

  34. When my mom died, I didn’t know about it for 5+ hours because I was at the pool with the kids. My Dad called DH to make sure I’d eventually get the message. I’m an outlier in this group.

  35. We got rid of the landline and added a cell line that stayed at home. The big benefit was it significantly reduced out sales calls that we had on the landline. DDs got prepaid phones first. After a couple of years of responsible ownership, we put them on our plan. DDs each got a phone when they went out of state (flying alone – not an unaccompanied minor). DD#1 was at the end of 8th grade and DD#2 was a year later at the end of 7th. Friends had phones sooner, but neither child was begging. DD#2 might have if not for the iPad and texting over wifi. Also, they went to a small school where there were phones in every classroom and other locations on campus. Plus, they were rarely without an adult they knew within 50 yards that they could ask to make a call.

    DD#1 had to have hers off during school hours and her senior year they were to be left in their lockers except for lunch. I rarely needed to be in touch with her and she always checked her phone after school before heading home in case there was a plan change. DD#2 has a pretty relaxed policy at school, but I don’t often text her either. An exception was this week, right after seeing the text blast about the at night’s concert and the “special” item needed, I texted her to find out if she needed us to bring hers.

    I don’t use them as punishment. Many of their extra curricular activities communicate through text/ FB/ or similar apps. I don’t want to have to monitor that when I have their phone. Also, I want them to be able to “ask for help” without peer pressure. Being able to text and either have the parent call/text that they must come home now or them knowing I am already on my way because they are going to play the I feel sick card is OK with me.

    I have bad phone habits – (1) it is by my bed from the time of elderly parents calling at all hours and/or their caregiver, etc. Once they no longer lived independently, it was impossible to know all the possible numbers to unblock. I do now use do not disturb and only my SO and DDs can bypass that. (2) I listen to books on my phone to go to sleep. Some nights when I have a lot of trouble sleeping, I let it play all night. Most nights, it is set on a 15 minute timer to shut off. (3) I use it as my alarm clock and flashlight if I need to go to anywhere else other than the bathroom before SO wakes up. This means I use it almost daily as I get up 1.5 to 2 hours before he does.

  36. We still have a landline. If we didn’t, then I’d probably feel differently about leaving our cell phones downstairs when we go to bed. And we all have alarm clocks to help us wake up in the morning – so we don’t need cell phones for that. Even if we get rid of our landline and had our cell phones with us in the bedroom, I would still use an alarm clock. I need something that requires me to get out of bed and go across the room to turn it off (otherwise I’d just hit the snooze button and stay in bed).

  37. Per the discussion several days ago about moving high school start times to later in the morning, NPR has a story the effects of changing the high school start time in Seattle from 7:50 am to 8:45 am. The study found that students averaged 34 minutes more of sleep a night, grades improved and there was a reduction in absences and tardies. DD was a junior when this went into effect. There was all sorts of grumbling at the time about the change but it seemed to work out fine.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/12/676118782/sleepless-no-more-in-seattle-later-school-start-time-pays-off-for-teens

  38. Our high school moved back its start time from 7:45 to 8:45, as well. DS is still tired, but its nice to have him sleep an extra 30 minutes or so.

  39. DD, it is possible that I’m overly snsative, but this isn’t “ending a phone call because you have to go do something”. It’s starting one and then begging off very quickly, claiming that you are already in the middle of something. So either started a convo while shopping or was using that as an excuse. Weird either way, but life goes on.

    I’m basically on board with looser regulation of cell phone time for teens, but we know that even if he gets up and gets to school on time every day, being too tired for too long is just inviting the depression back in, so after 2-3 late nights, I start pushing an earlier bedtime. The guys he plays online video games with are older than he is. Last night I was tickled that they told him, around 11:30, that they wouldn’t play with him because he had to go to sleep. I don’t think it’s college kids being mean to high schooler; he’s known them online for a couple years, and I think they were actually caring about him. Pretty cool, in my book!

  40. Tampa made the same change in high school start times as Seattle and Houston. I haven’t seen anything yet about the effects. One of the proposed schedules had elementaries starting earlier, which I thought was cruel—it was hard for mine to get up for school starting at 8–and I honestly don’t know if that was resolved or not.

    Austin, I keep my phone by my bed for many of the same reasons—flashlight to bathroom so I don’t have to blind myself with full lights (although I still have & love the motion detector nightlight in the bathroom), alarm, and possible late night emergencies. When my sister called at midnight asking about her present for my son, I told her as kindly as I could that I do not consider that an emergency.

    WCE, I note that you were with your kids when that call came. If I hadn’t been trained by years of being a single mother, I probably would not think of the phone as a communication channel to keep open for possible emergencies. When your husband is out of town and someone else is taking care of the kids, do you keep your phone with you/ on?

  41. I keep my phone beside me on do not disturb at night also. If my young adult kids, or my siblings call, it rings through. They would only call for a dire emergency, but it has happened.
    I’m interested in this idea of having a “home” cell phone. Our landline rings multiple times a day, but the calls are always recorded junk. When we move in the spring we will have better cell reception at home, and I was thinking of dropping the landline, but concerned about having all the marketing and junk calls going to my cell phone. Maybe another cell line linked to an old phone is a cheaper and easier option.

  42. On an iPhone what’s the best way to silence text notifications only from certain people, or more specifically, from groups? Group text notifications are annoying, and never urgent. I only want to silence texts, not phone calls.

  43. I wanted to show my MIL how to text on her iPad, but I hesitate because I can’t figure out why when I open texts on my phone they sometimes still show as unread on my iPad. This discrepancy doesn’t bother me very much but I don’t know how to remedy it. Maybe by recharging my iPad?

  44. Our landline rings multiple times a day, but the calls are always recorded junk.

    Our landline is from CenturyLink, and they have a No Solicitation option. Basically it blocks all callers (you can whitelist numbers for family and friends) and they get a message saying “You have reached a number that does not accept solicitations. If you are a solicitor, please add this number to your do-not-call list and hang up now. Otherwise, press 1, or stay on the line.” It has cut way down on the number of junk calls we get. You might check to see if your phone company has something similar.

  45. July, I just googled for that problem and one page says that Apple has fixed that bug in its latest iOS. Have you updated your iPad recently?

  46. Hmm, I am surprised at how many kids got cell phones early. Our #1 is in 5th grade and there is no way she will get a phone until 8th. She can use Google Hangouts on her chromebook (and we are getting her a computer shortly so she can get a google number and use that for calls on the computer) and otherwise she’s not on her own, always going to activities/with the nanny so there’s no need for us to get in touch with her. HOWEVER we are very lax on other screen time (youtube) so they do watch a lot of that.

    I also need to institute a no cell phones policy after 8 or so when friends are in the house. At #1’s last birthday party (sleepover) one of the girls had a phone and stayed up until 12! (and they were 10 years old!)

    I never have my cell phone upstairs. I have an alarm clock and I like to charge my phone overnight and the chargers are downstairs. Also I hate forgetting to turn on do not disturb and having the phone buzz at me. DH uses his phone as his alarm, but I will wake him up and go full on rage monster if he forgets to turn on do not disturb.

  47. L, my kids all got phones in 6th because they were now walking to and from school, and often staying late for activities. I needed them to be able to text me to tell me when they planned to get home. My older two had dumbphones until 10th grade, but with DD, I made the discovery that they do not make dumbphones that are suitable for text messaging any more. Also, the school pretty much expects the kids to have smartphones. The orchestra teacher wants them to use a phone app to record themselves playing to send to her. and the language teachers ask the kids to use phone apps in class. Plus, a lot of the coaches use Remind, which we learned does not work well except on a smartphone.

  48. I have DD’s phone set up so she can’t install anything herself, and her data service turns off at 9pm. We also use a DNS service that allows us to restrict access to certain kinds of sites at router level so it is hard for the kids to bypass. I had to go that way after I discovered DD was corresponding with what were clearly older men hitting up on kids on Discord.

  49. I just get Remind on the email notification, I don’t want them telling me on my phone. Our teachers mostly use Google classroom and the kids have their own school email accounts. Also our kids don’t walk (everyone takes the bus), so we always know where they are.

  50. L, when mine was 6, he often stayed home for an hour or two alone on Saturdays while I went to the market & grocery store. He had my old flip phone, and texted by hitting keys multiple times. It was also useful other times too. When he and the friend I mentioned the other day wanted to ride their bikes three blocks before her mom & I were ready to go, they got lost & he called me. His first “real” phone was an iPhone C the year they came out. I think he was in 7th grade. All the kids in his school had iPads, so could do all the communicating the same way your kids do on their computers.

  51. On an iPhone what’s the best way to silence text notifications only from certain people, or more specifically, from groups?

    If you want to block all group text alerts I don’t know about that. But if there is a group text or person that is causing problems, when you’re in the text click on the top and then click (i) info and they scroll down to “hide notifications” and turn that on.

  52. The problem is that the way Remind gets used at our school, a lot of the messages are last minute – Practice location change, meet us in 15 minutes at the track! – and if you have to wait to get to a computer to see them, you won’t see them in time. Also, even though I had signed up for the email service, I was still missing messages. Remind is really intended for phones, and just works better on a phone.

  53. Anecdote. 715 am today DILs extra loud text sound breaks thru my sleep fog. Afterschool pickup person is sick. DS on business trip. During Xmas she mans retail desk late hours in addition to main job in workshop. All settled in 5 minutes. Only casualty my extra hour ir so of sleep.

    Everybodys phone has facility to allow timed and individual number blocking, silencing of rings and or texts, special rings in various ways. Some is specific to the model or carrier. In most cases it is easiest to set an overall do not disturb window for calls, texts, and app notification sounds, and provide exceptions for certain phone nos. And also ringthru for phne if the same no calls three times in a row. Alarms are exempt automatically. I also have almost all apps set to banner no sound notification individually, and then turn on the sound fir the airline app or anything else vital to a special day if needed.

  54. Similar to MM, DD can’t install any apps on her phone without me. I looked into the thing with iphone where she can ask me “permission” to install, but decided it was just better to not let her know her itunes password. Nothing can be installed on any device the kids use without me entering the password.

  55. Also, L, you said your oldest is in 5th. You may find that things are really different when your kid hits middle school. At least for my kids, I found they were doing many more after school activities and their schedules were not all that regular any more. For example, they often stay late unexpectedly to do an afterschool review session or get extra help from a teacher. Clubs often have really irregular schedules too. Things really changed from 5th to 6th

  56. our landline rings in the office. It is part of the cable bundle. Personal calls come to our cells phones. Land line is for town charity and commercial calls. If a message is left I get an email. 90 percent are 3 sec or less.

  57. Not cell related, but today our landline rang at 630am. DW answered from her slumber…wrong number. That (early morning call waking us) hasn’t happened in a long time.

  58. Anecdote. 715 am today DILs extra loud text sound breaks thru my sleep fog. Afterschool pickup person is sick. DS on business trip. During Xmas she mans retail desk late hours in addition to main job in workshop. All settled in 5 minutes. Only casualty my extra hour ir so of sleep.

    Just to nitpick because it’s fun :), would it have been an issue if you didn’t see the text until an hour later when you woke up?

    Seriously, you’ve found a way to set it up that works well for you, and that’s the whole point. These devices are so customizable so you can set them up to work however you want. Or just leave it downstairs at night.

    I find it interesting how we get so defensive about our rules and usage of phones (and many other things) when people say the do something different. It’s like they are insulting us by it.

  59. I’m feeling old because I got my first call from “The tech department of Windows.” I found the name they used interesting. I guess it’s intentional. Anyone who knows anything immediately knows its a scam and hangs up. If someone stays on the line they are a good mark.

  60. Rhett, thanks! That does the job of keeping group texts quiet. I think for me it works better to block notifications from a few select texters/callers rather than wholesale blocking and then make exceptions. Some of this stuff is not urgent and even though it makes life easier in small ways I don’t bother taking the time to learn it. Okay, sometimes I’m lazy. :D

    DD, I don’t see it as being defensive but as usual I may be missing subtle (or not so subtle) communication cues.

  61. DD. The point is that a lot of us grouse about cell phones, airline rules, appliance motherboards, and a host of other interactions with the world as if there is a massive commercial conspiracy to make everything just.so.annoying and impossible to get right. In almost all cases it is a matter of simple choices, allocating dollars and sometimes technical assistance. Apparently there are a lot of contributors who do not find it simple to customize a phone, convenient to schedule an electrician appt to install a whole house surge protector, financially prudent to spend a bit extra to sit next to a 7 year old on a plane. And yes, my DIL would have been Scrambling fir 2 hours because by 9 am it would be too late to arrange things with me. Between kids, parents, and grandkids I have only fir a few years been in a situation where I could go incommunicado, so I cant use the other room solution.

    And I am thrilled to find out that none of the Totebag teens ever have or will sneak out at night after mom and dad are asleep.

  62. “It’s even worse than the constant AARP applications!”

    Just wait until you’re approaching Medicare age. Tons of stuff.

  63. Meme, as several of us posted, it is not necessary to shell out $$ to sit next to your young child on a plane, because gate agents/flight attendants will make the change for you. I understand that you think your solutions are the bees knees, and they are—for you. But I very much appreciate Denver Dad’s point that the whole purpose of customization is that the same “solutions” are not solutions for everyone, no matter how great a specific individual might find a certain way of doing things.

  64. DD (6th grade) has a phone, and texts a lot, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised (so far) about the kind of texting that goes on. She’s opted out of several group chats that she’s been invited to join (says she doesn’t want people “spamming me with stupid stuff”), but she does enjoy one-on-one or small-group chats with her best buddies. I have her password, and I look at the text strings from time to time, and it’s all been innocent stuff so far (joking with each other, posting memes and bitmojis, etc). All in all I think having a phone in 6th and being able to text has been a positive thing for her social life.

    What I’m really glad about is that neither of my kids has expressed any interest so far in Instagram or other social-media sites. I can’t imagine the stress of constantly feeling like you have to put up posts that make your life look perfect, or comparing the number of your “likes” to your friends’. Ugh. I would really love to keep them away from that stuff until they’re older. For now, DH and I have a lot of conversations with them about how the way someone portrays themselves on social media might have very little resemblance to that person’s real life.

  65. I just called Spectrum (nee Time Warner) to try to lower my rate. I didn’t go into the whole (fake) threat of “I’m moving to Dish/DirectTV etc”. They said no promos available at this time. Only a little odd because usually they have the thing running that if I add phone to my internet/tv package the price goes down a bit.

  66. “It’s even worse than the constant AARP applications!”

    For me, the worst has been getting the catalogs from the companies that cater to menopausal women. Lots of products for helping one deal with hot flashes and urine leakage and the like.

  67. Meme, I know we all complain about stuff, that’s part of the reason why we’re here – it’s a good place to talk about stuff like this. I think some of it is that there is a bit of effort involved in doing things like customizing the phone alerts/do not disturb settings, and it we don’t always want to deal with it.

    On your issue this morning, if you hadn’t seen the text until you woke up an hour later, would it have changed your availability? I’m guessing there is an assumption in your family that if Meme doesn’t respond right away it means she won’t be able to help.

    And I am thrilled to find out that none of the Totebag teens ever have or will sneak out at night after mom and dad are asleep.

    To my knowledge, my kids have never done it. But the definition of sneaking is that if they do it right, we wouldn’t know about it.

    I’m feeling old because I got my first call from “The tech department of Windows.” I found the name they used interesting. I guess it’s intentional. Anyone who knows anything immediately knows its a scam and hangs up. If someone stays on the line they are a good mark.

    I got one of those calls once and I had some fun with them. I asked them which computer it was, and they couldn’t tell me of course, so I kept pushing them until they finally hung up.

  68. I was thinking about growing up in the home country and the family routine in the morning without cell phone or TV. Well, my parents would eat breakfast but they went through the daily newspaper at the same time. So, not the models of good behavior. I had a very late start to school so the whole household was up and it was impossible to sleep past 7 am. Many of my friends studied in the morning before school. The weather being sunny for a lot of the year made the morning a very pleasant time before the heat.

  69. “And I am thrilled to find out that none of the Totebag teens ever have or will sneak out at night after mom and dad are asleep.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    But seriously, I would be surprised if DD did, because there’s no need to sneak when we already give her permission for pretty much whatever she wants to do. ;-) Plus she’s the rule-follower anyway. Now DS, OTOH, I expect some problems with in a few more years. . . .

    @DD: I think the point with the phone call wasn’t that Meme wouldn’t have been available, but that DIL would have needed to start calling her other backup options immediately, because she needs things settled before she gets to work and so can’t afford to wait. So that works for them.

    I’m also getting a little confused because it sounds like we’re arguing/disagreeing (in a friendly way), and I can’t for the life of me figure out what we’re disagreeing about! We all have our own “rules” and preferences and quirks, right? I find it interesting to hear how others do it, because a lot of the time it’s stuff I hadn’t even thought of.

    But yes, I do hold a grudge over those $%!@!^@#%& motherboards. I’m tired of paying multiple hundreds of dollars for service visits to replace the same $%!%#!^&#% part over and over and over. ;-)

  70. NoB, DS commented once on what a loser he was because he doesn’t have anything to post like the “I have a great life” shots on Insta. I was surprised at how visibly relieved he was when I pointed out that people choose what to post, and sometimes go to considerable effort to set up the shot. Since then, we have occasionally joked about how ‘grammable a certain moment is (especially one we aren’t enjoying) or how goofy an IG post of something we are really enjoying would look. I hope he’s getting the message that instagrammable does not equal fun or valuable or anything other than a pretty picture

  71. “We all have our own “rules” and preferences and quirks, right? I find it interesting to hear how others do it, because a lot of the time it’s stuff I hadn’t even thought of.”

    Well said, and I agree. Thanks for demystifying and defusing the comments on scheduling an extra grandkid pickup (I had also assumed that the DiL could take it for granted that once she’d texted Meme, she’d be finished) and kids sneaking out (even though I still have no clue how the latter fits into the current conversation).

  72. I kept pushing them until they finally hung up.

    I felt kind of guilty for hanging up. I thought I should have strung them along for a while. More time with me = less time to swindle some little old lady.

  73. I never had any desire to sneak out as a teen, because my parents would let me do whatever I wanted. We didn’t have set curfew, you just had to be home when you say you would be. There were plenty of times my friends and I would go to the 11pm movie showing, so I would tell my parents I’d be home by 1 or 2, and they were fine with it. But I had to wake them up as soon as I walked in the door. I am not sure what would motivate a kid to want to sneak out. A too early curfew, or maybe being grounded? Also not sure where my kids would even go if they snuck out.

  74. Phones are one thing we’ve never struggled with with our kids, not because we are awesome parents with awesome rules, but because our kids just aren’t that interested in phones. Older DS has one, and got it in 6th grade when he was old enough to ride his bike to the pool, to play tennis, etc. on his own. He was happy to get it, but is not that interested in it. He rarely carries it around with him and only checks it for texts every few days. Also, he will often get texts from friends and just flat out not respond to them, which I think is a little obnoxious but he just doesn’t care.

    Younger DS seems to be taking his cues from his brother. He does not yet have a phone and doesn’t care about having one.

  75. L, I hope that the Totebag crew is around in 3 years. If we ask you for an update in 3 years, I can almost guarantee that you will find it very challenging to wait until 8th grade to give your child a phone. The only exception would be is if most of the kids in your school wait until 8th to have phones.

  76. S&M, my phone doesn’t have a reliable signal at work so while I am more apt to keep it with me when DH is gone, I still don’t rely on it to receive messages. Your comment reminds me that I should update my emergency contact info with my new work e-mail, which I do observe constantly. That’s how I found out DD’s childcare was closing in a snowstorm a couple years ago.

  77. Rhett, it’s not that simple when you discover this problem on an express train to the city. Fortunately, that was the only hassle he had that day.

  78. If it were a sick kid staying home, I need to be out of the house by 8ish to make the drive over so so that she can get to work, so the text does have to reach me very early in the morning.

  79. Now for something that went right. I decided to consolidate all retirement funds and roll over my big 401k into IRAs (after tax monies into Roth). I made an appt Tues am with the hustling young Merrill Edge guy at the bank, set up the Roth account (already had a rollover IRA from small employers set up), got the acct numbers and addresses. I called my employer’s plan today (had to discuss the split rollover) and had a great conversation with the lady in Costa Rica. she explained the details of the procedure (I get a check addressed to me for the after tax money and have to do a 60 day, the other is sent directly to ML), it took 15 min. The Big 6 accting firm tiny lump sum pension rollover (never knew I had one) will involve a trip to a notary with hubby, but otherwise just a stamp (glad I know how to purchase one).

  80. “I never had any desire to sneak out as a teen, because my parents would let me do whatever I wanted….I am not sure what would motivate a kid to want to sneak out. A too early curfew, or maybe being grounded? Also not sure where my kids would even go if they snuck out.”

    As mentioned above, some kids are more rule-followers and some, well, are not. We all mostly know our kids so we speak from our own experience. But what might motivate a kid to sneak out even if he has reasonable curfew? Maybe a 1am text from another kid to meet at the park to smoke weed on a school night? Maybe an agreement with an older guy met online to go for a drive at 2 in the morning? There are some parents who allow these activities, but I doubt many would. And IMO the right peer groups and parenting approaches don’t always prevent these things, unfortunately. (I hope I’m not sounding defensive but I just want to share another perspective, maybe one outside the typical totebag world.)

  81. Meme, I totally get that and it goes back to my previous post that there’s an assumption that if you don’t respond immediately then you aren’t available and they need to move on to the next option.

    I am not sure what would motivate a kid to want to sneak out. A too early curfew,

    Or even a later curfew that they want to go past. That’s the obvious one. Or if they are going someplace they don’t want you to know about, like to see a boyfriend/girlfriend.

  82. To my knowledge, only 1 of the 4 of us ever snuck out. She met up with a boy our parents probably would’ve approved of, though probably not at that hour. It was not a good night for her. Natural consequences meant she never did it again (as far as I know).

    The most unfortunate part of our recent discipline debacle is perhaps an erosion of trust. He was being uncharacteristically quiet, but probably would have spoken to me eventually. Maybe. I would have preferred to know to steer conversations in that direction without him realizing how I knew to do so. I don’t think trust is completely gone—he has since told me about thoughts and actions (of different sorts) that indicate he does trust me. We don’t have a set in stone curphew, but when he tells me he’ll do something, including being home at a certain time, he needs to do it. That’s an overall issue, not just with coming home.

  83. Oops—typo. There were only 3 of us.

    I was going to ask! It made “natural consequences” sound pretty ominous!

  84. L – I might be open to rethinking when you get your oldest a phone and consider it a little earlier depending on when her friends get phones. It could be a little socially isolating if all her friends have phones and are texting and she does not.

    DS (8th grade) joined Instagram when he turned 13. He usually posts “stories” every day which delete after 24 hours. I love seeing what he posts – lots of car-related things but also funny things about his day. It’s a little window into his world.

  85. Pwahaha, Rocky. Right now I’m trying to think of a “natural” consequence for a certain stubborn teen-ager.

  86. I will say I am looking forward to the family conversations c.2038 when the kids start reminiscing about all the bad stuff they did in HS without us even knowing about it. ;-) I’m sure I’m missing something and will be very interested to find out what it is — AFTER it is all safely in the past . . . .

  87. My oldest does not have a cell phone (6th grade) and won’t until she is an adult and wants to buy it herself There are enough studies – NTP, the one that July referenced above, and the ones that link screen time to depression, that have convinced me that there are health risks – especially for kids (who have thinner skulls and unmylinated brains). But I also don’t think people should have wi-fi in their homes or in schools. I’m fine with her texting on an ipod plugged into a wired connection. So far it hasn’t been an issue.

    Also there are loads of studies about how damaging blue light is (particularly at night, but really during the day as well) that I make my kids wear blue blockers when they do have screen time (although not with friends over, I’m not that mean). Blue light destroys your circadian rhythm and suppresses your melatonin production.

  88. RMS…best natural consequence I have ever heard of for a teenager sneaking out…..and this was a good kid, btw, who has grown up to be a responsible adult…..

    Kid decides to sneak out, quietly leaves the house, and sneaks thru a creekbed to where she has strategically left a vehicle. Kid has forgotten that there is a barb wire fence between her house and the creek, gets a little hung up in the barb wire. Also in the creekbed is a skunk who was displeased to be disturbed…kid gets sprayed, tries to sneak back into the house and goes through the sliding class door to the living room where the dad is watching tv. Then finds out that the party was cancelled. And the story gets spread throughout the town.

  89. “Right now I’m trying to think of a “natural” consequence for a certain stubborn teen-ager.”

    Yeah, good luck with that. ;-) But isn’t the “real” natural consequence that you lose trust in him, and then you get up in his business more, and then he nautrally resents that and withdraws, and it damages your relationship? I know it’s not the typical more simple/obvious punishment kind of thing, but he seems very thoughtful and attuned to emotional/relationship issues, so if you can put those dots closer together for him, it might help him make the connection between his behavior and the strain in your relationship and his own current negative feelings that resulted from all that.

    The thing I always tell my clients is that if you want the government enforcement people to leave you alone, the only way you get that is to demonstrate that they can trust you to do what you need to do when they’re not there watching. Seems totally obvious to me — but a lot of times they are so caught up in the “rightness” of their own position that they don’t see it until I lay it out that directly.

  90. I hope I’m not sounding defensive but I just want to share another perspective, maybe one outside the typical totebag world.

    You’re not, and I hope I didn’t make you feel defensive. My “I’m not sure” was genuine – I couldn’t think of an example because it was so far outside my experience, but I didn’t mean “there couldn’t possibly be one.”

  91. Laura, that’s pretty much the way I think about these things, usually. Right now though, the voices in my head are having a different discussion:
    1. I want nothing to do with him. That’s a normal human reaction, a natural consequence of what he’s done that he’ll have to deal with. If I pull away from him, he’ll just have to deal.
    2. Human contact is vital for everyone. When we are upset is when we need connection most. That includes him, even when we are upset with each other.

    This is a slightly different calculation than I’ve made in the past. Until now, the second argument would have included that he really has no one else to turn to when he needs to unload. Now I’m tempted to let him test the carrying capacity of one (or more) of the friendships he’s made this fall.

  92. Cass, thanks for the laugh. That’s an awesome story. I recall that one of those times I just wanted to get away from my parents and just took off, I came up against an electric fence. Made me madder, but then I think I calmed down from everything.

  93. I snuck out a couple times when in junior high, but it was boring so I never did it again. I met up with a friend and we walked around the neighborhood in the middle of the night and then went home.

    But I have a good natural consequence story. My brother snuck out once, and… came home with poison ivy in an area that, well, I don’t even want to think about what he might have been doing.

  94. So my parents were lax — I always had the latest curfew of all my friends, they didn’t really check up on me much, by senior year I had zero curfew & pretty much came & went as I pleased even on school nights.

    BUT…I still snuck out sometimes. At least a dozen times throughout HS. I think some of it was just that I didn’t want to have to tell my parents that I was doing anything at all. Some of it was probably the thrill of getting away with something. I wasn’t necessarily doing anything that exciting either – meeting up with a friend or a boy to hang out. I wouldn’t even have been smoking weed or having sex because I did neither of those things in HS! I never snuck out with the car – but I did sneak out on my bike or on foot.

    Really – the thrill of getting away with something is big for some people. It was for me. Maybe my own kid will be different – he’s much, much more of a rule follower than I ever was. But he still pushes the boundaries to find out where the real edge of the rules lie – just like any kid.

  95. @S&M: Yeah, that’s tough. My one suggestion is to remember under item 2 that love and acceptance are even more important from mom/dad, and even even more important to a kid who struggles with anxiety and depression and all of the insecurities and negative self-talk that goes with that. It’s really, really hard to provide that unconditional parental love while at the same time letting him feel the natural consequences of the “but sometimes I don’t like you very much” that his behavior generates!

    Could you say something directly to him? Along the lines of, “I love you more than anything in the world, and nothing is ever going to change that. But right now I am still so angry that I don’t really want to spend a lot of time with you — I need some distance so I can get my emotions under control so I don’t say something I will regret later.” Because you know kids — no matter what you do, they’ll put the worst possible interpretation on it (“she doesn’t love me any more!”), and then they’ll act out even more in response to that insecurity; maybe being explicit about your thinking there might help?

  96. “I’m interested in this idea of having a “home” cell phone. Our landline rings multiple times a day, but the calls are always recorded junk. When we move in the spring we will have better cell reception at home, and I was thinking of dropping the landline, but concerned about having all the marketing and junk calls going to my cell phone. Maybe another cell line linked to an old phone is a cheaper and easier option.”

    Why not use an iPod touch, or even an old iPhone, and wifi instead?

  97. “this isn’t “ending a phone call because you have to go do something”. It’s starting one and then begging off very quickly, claiming that you are already in the middle of something. “

    I know people who will have a small block of unprogrammed time and decide to make use of it by calling someone, oblivious to how that call intrudes on the other person’s time. IMO, those people are often very self-centered, to the point of being oblivious to their self-centeredness.

    I’d be more likely to use a small block of time, like when I’m waiting in a checkout line, to do something I can easily pull myself from, like read my email, or compose email.

  98. I am really curious re: HOW people snuck out. When I was a kid there was no route from my bedroom to the outside without going past the adults. I could have snuck out around midnight when everyone was asleep, I suppose, but I was never good at staying up late! Even in college I only stayed up until 12 or 1.

  99. Even in college I only stayed up until 12 or 1.

    Sistah!

    Actually I was usually asleep by 10. There’s a story about a guy walking past me while I’m conked out on a chair, and saying “Can’t fuck her; she’s asleep” which seemed kind of creepy at the time, but in retrospect seems positively gentlemanly and gallant.

  100. I am really curious re: HOW people snuck out.

    Wait until the parents are asleep and walk out the door.

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