Friday, September 26, 2014

Old Cell Phones for Kids

My children are digital natives.  They speak the language of computers and accept their presence as unquestioningly as I accepted telephones and record players when I was a child.  I have deep worries about the way screens seem to absorb us and distract us while real life unspools in front of us.  I want to shield my children from screens for a while as I teach them (hopefully by example!) how to use computers and technology for good purposes in disciplined ways.

One of the teaching things that my husband and I stumbled into began when he cleaned out a drawer of stuff.  Ben asked if he could have the old cell phone.  There was no sim card in it, so my husband handed it over with the charger.  It still plays a few ring tones, takes pictures, and has a few simple games.  Ben adores this little dose of adult screen time.  Then Genevieve got the next old cell phone, which can also make short videos. She adores making little films of her life, filled with kid jokes, inappropriate noises, and strange blurry angles.

Any time they use the phones inappropriately (usually when specifically told to put the phone away, bringing it to the table, or playing on it instead of doing chores), my husband and I confiscate the phones.  One child had a phone removed for three weeks.  That child is a much better listener after that loss of privilege!

No need to buy DS systems or other electronics for kids like their friends and cousins have!  The children love controlling their own little cell phones.  It's a very thrifty way to let kids interact with screens!

What access do your children have to screens and their own personal electronics?  I'm sure this only gets complicated as they get older. Thoughts and advice, please.


Lana said...

Our children are all grown but it really irks me when they are home and on their iPhones at the dinner table! One DIL is frequently texting back and forth with her mother. I find this to be horribly rude!

Our two year old grandson get our daughter's phone and calls me. He knows he is calling me because as soon as I pick up he starts in and says Nana. Then I hear my daughter asking him if he has her phone and who is he talking to. How in the world did he learn this? It seems to be second nature to him.

I love your idea for the old phones.

Rachel said...

Just a warning--even without a sim card, they can still call 911. We learned this the hard way :) There is really no need, in my mind, for screen time for kids. My 11-year-old is getting it because his school does lots of online learning work, and he sets a timer when he's on the computer for schoolwork. It also keeps him focused! Other than the occasional movie or iPad game (usually around once/week), they don't get screen time. And they're still better than most adults at electronic stuff :)

jenny_o said...

Our experience may not be so relevant as our kids are older - they were in elementary school, probably about your childrens' current ages, when computers were just starting to be affordable for the average family. They were used to entertaining themselves without a computer, but welcomed the new toy with open arms, and we had our share of battles over it. One thing we did was to tie their recreational computer time (not homework computer time) to physical activity, since they both tended to be sedentary when given a choice. I think computers in some form (phones, ipads, etc) are going to be around forever, so it's important that kids be comfortable with them. And I can certainly see the positive side of having access to like-minded people around the world (what are we dong as bloggers and readers, after all!) In our case, our son was bullied at school and eventually found good friends in other parts of our country through the internet, and our daughter became seriously ill as a teenager and couldn't socialize in person; she had several internet pals during that time and her contact with them was extremely helpful to keep her from feeling so isolated. Hopefully those are things your kids won't need to experience, but they show the benefits that can emerge in some circumstances.

jenny_o said...

"dong" should, of course, be "doing" :)

Margo said...

oh Rachel, oh my word, THANK YOU.

Rozy Lass said...

Our oldest is 25, youngest is 16; they all got phones when they were at least 15, we felt they needed on and they could pay for it themselves. Youngest still doesn't have one as he doesn't want to spend his money on that. We have the rules of no calls or texting at meal times, no electronics (they have school issued laptops) in the bedrooms; and chores, schoolwork, churchwork all completed before any gaming. We've had more trouble with the younger ones simply because the older ones give them their old stuff. Set up rules early, stick to them, and be the master of electronics rather than the slave.

Sarah Barry said...

We do the same thing. Stephen has my husband's old iphone. It is a great place to start, no internet, just some neat features.

And we too give and take the phone away based on listening and obeying capabilities.

I'm putting off buying any screens for my kids as long as I can. My thought is they have the rest of their life to deal with screens!

I like your ideas.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Smart idea...
there were no phones or computers[not available for kids at that time].. So, we did not have to face all that..

I really hate when adults come to visit with phones attached at the hip..[ha] and can't carry on a conversation, with out interacting on those phones.. Very rude..

I think lots of people could use the rule, of having their phones taken a

Rebecca said...

Our kids may have their own cell phones when they go to college. Until then, they watch movies approx. once a week and have 1 or 2 online classes a semester. They each check their e-mail once or twice a day and, in Clara's case read blogs and hang out on Pinterest for approx. 30 minutes in the morning. Our biggest rule is that all screen time happens in the living room on laptops. Absolutely no private screen time.

Nancy po said...

As a parent we really monitored our kids computer use. As an educator is needed in schools, etc. BUT, read this- by DOCTORS.

It is re-wiring your kids brains over time, and not in a good way. Here's a post I did about tech and kids-

MDiskin said...

Our kids are 3rd grade, 1st grade, and pre-K. All clamoring for more screen time. I feel like so many kids even of fairly conservative (screen-wise) parents spend SO much time interacting with a screen that we are really against the tide. We have dedicated screen time that our three earn via chores -- small simple chores, like "swiff the hall" or "wipe out the bathroom sinks." Easy for a kid to do in a minute or two. Usually 4 or 5 chores a day, followed by a half hour of "alone time" where we all get to chill out away from each other for a bit with a book or toy, gets them one short show, which we monitor -- nothing too crazy. And our 1st grader seemed to be having some problems with reading word blends, so I added an app to my iPhone for her to play with as screen time when she wanted to do that instead. I find that if I can just resist the crying to a certain point, they all wander off to play outside or make puppets or set up an elaborate Calico Critter house -- things they love to do and I love to see them do.

It's hard to keep screens out of the house (no iPad here, or Kindle Fire, and we use a Roku for TV so no commercials or raunchy random TV either) but doing it does clear the ground to help other habits of life take root, I think. I do worry that I need to set up more protective measures on phone and computers so that nothing terrible gets through. Our computer is right off the kitchen, but a phone can be carried off and used out of sight.

Oh, and after last year's repeat tardiness I added a rule: all kids need to be standing by the door with bookbags, shoes on, hair & teeth brushed at 7:15 or they can forfeit screens that day. That cleared my little dawdlers right up -- just one relapse since school began.

Polly said...

Screens haven't been much of an issue in this household for some reason. I have a laptop, a phone, an ipod and a kindle fire (what?? all gifts, believe you me). We have a television but it is only used to watched Netflix'ed movies, our DVDs, or, in my husband's case, sports. We don't have cable television or anything like Wii or DVR (I barely know what these things are!!). This is b/c we are very cheap Luddites.:)

At 7 & 3, my children don't seem to ask for screen time. A few times a week they get to watch a video--this week it was Sunday and Friday. They don't have any computer time at all. Sometimes Finn takes videos w/ the ipod, but this is very sporadic.

I haven't figured all of this out yet. Mostly I try to set a decent (not perfect) example by staying away from screens when they are awake. I do check my email on my phone/ipod and sometime read this or that on my little device while they are around but otherwise they don't see me interacting w/ screens much. We don't have any actual restrictions on screen time and I don't tie it to anything as a 'reward' but it is basically a non-issue. I have no idea how this will shake out in the coming years. I am hoping that they will get the message that screens are there to be tools for them, not turn them into tools/slaves to technology!! We shall see.....


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