You are here

Teens and cellphones

completely overwhelmed's picture

Is it required that teens must have cellphones?

By what age should a teen have their own phone? Is it required that a teen know how to use a smartphone to successfully become an adult?

SD turned 16 last month, but doesn’t have a phone and never has. SD has been offered the opportunity to earn the privilege of having a cellphone for over 4 years now and never has bothered to even try accomplish any of the requirements and has said over and over she doesn’t care about having one. She doesn’t have any friends and has issues with fine motor skills so the buttons on the phone would be difficult for her.

What spurred this question is there was an incident yesterday where there was some confusion over who was picking up SD from an after school program and it ended up that no one was there to pick her up. She is in Special Education classes, so there’s a higher level of concern over her not having a ride home.

Technically, there’s no reason she can’t walk since it’s only a little over 2 miles away, but that’s a different complaint.

Someone from the after-school program tried to call her dad’s cellphone number, but he was driving and didn’t answer. The only phone number SD has memorized is the home phone number – and no one was home. So they didn’t have my cellphone number. So this turned into a clusterf* which seems more appropriate if SD was 6 rather than 16 and she’s isn’t severely disabled. She feigns helplessness to avoid having to do anything and to get attention. I hate looking like the evil stepmom who didn't pick up my stepdaughter and instead took my daughter to her tumbling class.

The after-school program staff member have made a point that SD is going to turn 18 in 2 years and have never used a cellphone or tablets when other kids grew up with them. But does that really matter? Is using a cellphone or smartphone really a necessary life skill?

If we got her a smartphone, then maybe she would want to play games or watch YouTube videos on it and then it can be used as a reward/consequence and taken away from her. But I think the reason she's never wanted a phone is because she knows 99% of the time it will be taken away. If she needs to have it for emergencies, then she will need to have it at school and only will loose the phone in the evenings. But she still gets the smartphone without earning it during the day.

DH wants to just glue a list of phone numbers to her backpack so if someone needs to call us, they can but doesn’t want to give her a phone – that she could lose, break, forget to charge, or get calls from boys or her birthmom (who has no contact and currently is in jail).

The only benefit of the cellphone would be to have a list of numbers programmed in – and that could be solved by giving SD and the after-school program a list of contact numbers including mine and my mom’s (my mom was suppose to pick her up but was confused about the schedule).

I don’t want to add another problem that we have to fight with SD over or have to waste money on something she never uses (a simple cellphone).

Is it required to get a 16 year old a cellphone? I am worried that SD functions more like a 10 year old than a 16 year old and DH is fine with that. But SD refuses to accept any responsibility and doesn't care about anything. I'm not sure if a cellphone changes that but it seems like the type of milestone most kids achieve by age 16.

MrsZipper's picture

In my opinion 2 miles is an unreasonable distance for a special needs student to walk alone, especially if she isn't used to it. Yes, using a cell phone is a necessary life skill.

strugglingSM's picture

Given how much cell phones are used in our society, I think knowing how to use a cell phone is a necessary life skill. Your SD doesn't have to use a cell phone all the time, but since most people keep in touch via cell phone, I think she should understand how to use one. It can also be a good way for her to keep track of contact information for her family, teachers, frjends, etc.

Acratopotes's picture

Why not give her a cell phone... a cheapy where she can only call certain numbers and text, no internet, no nothing... problem solved lol.
and no not on your plan, pre paid only.....

completely overwhelmed's picture

I can see that being a constant challenge to make sure she has the phone and that its charged. She won't care one bit if she has it or not.

I could even see her losing it on purpose if she's angry with her dad. She loves doing things like that.

A smartphone gives her more incentive to actually have the phone with her since she could play music or games on it. But those drain batteries and she isn't responsible enough to take care of it. DH also wants parental monitoring on the phone to make sure she doesn't call her mom or sext a guy and I don't think there are those types of features on cheap prepaid phones.

Acratopotes's picture

Simply pre-paid with no data then..... not sure if you get this phone there, Samsung J1. Not really expensive and awesome phone for a teen.

But I think she's old enough to have a phone, she's going to fall way behind her age group in the work environment one day, Install the parenting app before handing her the phone.

Kes's picture

I think if teens want a fancy expensive smart phone, then they can get a part time job and earn the money to buy it themselves. All I would provide them with would be a simple phone which allows calls and texts for use in emergencies.

completely overwhelmed's picture

She doesn't want the phone so the problem is trying to make sure she has it and it has power and she uses it. I'm not sure it will ever be possible for her to have a job.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I use my cell phone enough for work that I get reimbursed by my company for part of my plan. I travel around the state, and need my phone to take pictures, read/respond to emails, Google answers to client questions that I'm unprepared for, keep notes if I'm in an area where paper and pencils aren't easy to use, pull up examples of materials, etc. I also use the calculator app a lot.

I fought for a long time on getting a smartphone because I didn't see the use. However, after lugging around individual pieces of equipment, I found it so much easier to just have and use a smartphone.

It sounds like your SD is already going to be at a disadvantage if she is in special education classes. Her being technologically impaired in addition to whatever other issues she has is only going to make her less employable, and therefore less successful, as an adult. Every recent job interview I have had has asked me for a list of devices and programs that I am comfortable/proficient in using - and I am not in a tech-related job field.

There at smartphones that are cheap that have limited functionality. Those would make a good starter phone for her. I think it has become such a necessity that getting kids a phone is almost a requirement, but getting kids a NICE phone is a privilege. You can still take it away if she misuses it, or doesn't use it at all. However, I think she'll be behind the 8 ball if she reaches 18 with zero idea how one works.

--figureditout--'s picture

Both of my boys have phones. OBS is a freshman and YBS is a 6th grader. I work full time about an hour away from home and DH has frequent VA appointments in Pensacola which is an hour and a half away.

We no longer have a house phone. The boys take good care of their phones and use them appropriately.

SD did not get one until she started driving. I was a SAHM at the time. Neither DH nor myself had cells then.

secret's picture

I pay 120$ a year per line, the phone has unlimited texting, and free calling (local) evenings and weekends.

As the phones themselves are smartphones, they can hook up to wifi - which we have at home... so they can use the internet on their phones at home. Or wherever they can connect to wifi.

They started at 10 - because if they were responsible enough to be home alone for a short period of time (15 minutes to 30 minutes) then they needed to have a method of emergency calling.