Getting DC2 a cellphone

DC2 is going into 6th grade and we think it’s time for a phone.

Ideally we would get hir a flip phone until zie showed that zie could be responsible with it.  But the only flip phone that works with Ting (not sponsored) gets 1 star reviews, most of which say it is terrible at being an actual phone.  Since the main purpose of getting a phone is for DC2 to be able to call us for pick-ups and things like that, not having that ability is probably worse than not having an actual phone.

The next cheapest phone is a $99 moto e, which gets decent reviews.  But… a refurbished iPhone 8 is only $169 and the rest of us have iPhones (also not sponsored) and we’d be able to track hir phone and be more likely to find it when it’s missing etc. etc. etc.

It seems a little unfair because DC1 currently has an iPhone 8 (a hand-me-down from DH when DH upgraded to a 13) and spent middle school losing/destroying flip phone after flip phone and complaining about not having a smart phone (though at any point zie could have saved up to buy one hirself, zie just didn’t want to).  But you couldn’t get a refurbished iphone 8 for $169 back then and there just aren’t great alternatives for DC2 like there were for DC1, and we didn’t want to spend $300 on a phone until zie could show zie would be unlikely to lose it.  DC1 will just have to deal with the unfairness of it all since I don’t particularly want to upgrade my phone 12 any time soon.  (And next year DC1 will be getting all sorts of electronics swag for college.)

Adding another line for DC2 will be something like $7/mo plus whatever additional data zie uses.

Hopefully zie will use it responsibly!

When do you think kids should get their own phones?  What kind of phone would you start with?

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20 Responses to “Getting DC2 a cellphone”

  1. Jen Says:

    My girls are 11 and 7 (going into 6th grade and 2nd grade) and we are not considering a phone for either in the near future. For us, the pros probably wont outweigh the cons until they are driving. So, 16 maybe?

  2. Noemi Says:

    We got our daughter a Gizmo watch (only available on Verizon) in 6th grade because she was taking the public bus alone (well, with a friend) to and from school. This year we got her an Apple Watch with cell service (it doesn’t require an iPhone to have the cell service) that we manage, so she can actually text her friends (the Gizmo has very limited capabilities). We don’t plan to get her a smart phone until high school. As a middle school teacher I see how kids just want to be on them ALL DAY LONG. it’s awful to be out on duty in the morning watching them all stand in groups staring at their phones and not saying a word to each other. She’s the only one of her friends who doesn’t have a smart phone but we’re going to hold strong until high school (when her friends come over they just sit on their phones the whole time. I’ve actually taken them away on occasion because they can’t seem to put them away themselves).

    • Socal Dendrite Says:

      My kids are young (9 and 7) and I am hoping to take the same stance as you when the time comes. But my concern is, if all their friends are on their phones all the time (eg at recess), will my kids have anyone to actually play/hang out with even if they don’t have a phones of their own? How is that playing out with your daughter?

      • bogart Says:

        This is absolutely a problem in my experience with my now 15-year old kid. I try to encourage/promote/facilitate friend get-togethers and there are all kinds of obstacles, but the kids just wanting to stay home and play video games (possibly with each other, remotely, possibly not) is a huge one. I can kick my kid off the screen, of course, but I cannot kick other people’s kids off screens; it’s maddening. I don’t know the solution.

        When required to be with other kids, e.g. at school, my son does seem to do OK with finding interactions. I’m sure some/many of those involve the kids being on their phones together, but they do seem to manage to interact, and I know he plays sports with his friends at school (beyond PE, I mean, in free time), so the key challenge in my experience is getting them together at all.

  3. Steph Says:

    My Galaxy has an ultra power saving mode that effectively turns the smart phone into a normal phone and disables almost all other features. iPhone and moto e don’t appear to have that option yet, based on some googling. Obviously DC2 could just turn that off, but it might be an option.

    My whole family uses iPhones except for me. I really like my Galaxy and prefer it over iDevices, personally. I bet there’s a way to set up tracking etc on an android, even from an iPhone.

    Smartphones weren’t a thing until my senior year of high school, so I have no conception of how to navigate that with a middle schooler! My sister and I shared a big “candy bar” phone in middle school, then I got my own flip phone when I started high school. I had flip/slider phones for about 10 years before I finally got a smart phone – it caused some issues but I’m glad I waited for it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think there are a lot of parental controls that we can use on the iphone and there are probably some we can use to turn features off. Currently zie has just been told that the iphone is rolled into allowed screentime for the day, so it’s this *or* the switch or netflix etc. And DH can check using the parental controls.

      I didn’t get a smart phone until 6 years ago! And I didn’t get a flip phone until I was on the job market in graduate school… #backinmyday

  4. bogart Says:

    I’ve been off the grid and am thus behind, but I am so, so sorry to hear about the intersection of COVID + travel. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Not fair!

    As to the phone, it does seem like changes in technology affect what choices make sense, if one wants a kid to have a phone (for comparison, my stepkids were very excited to get … pagers … as ways of staying in touch (with their friends, not us!) when they were teens).

    We used a flip phone for a long time (mostly just in the house as a backup for DC in case he was home alone), and I insisted that DC learn to touch type before getting him a smartphone (or tablet — anything you could “type” on without a keyboard). Interestingly he didn’t care enough about having a phone during year 1 of the pandemic to pursue this, but once in-person school resumed, he met my (fairly low) standard for OK touch-typing and we got him a phone (something Android, Moto I think). Honestly I don’t know that the touch-typing has stayed with him (I probably should have insisted on more/better), though he reports it has, more or less, so maybe?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC2 is pretty good at touch typing. Self-taught with online programs plus whatever they’ve done at school. I think next summer zie has to take an online course that teaches touch typing plus online safety for school. (7th grade is when they officially take keyboarding.)

      • bogart Says:

        Yeah, my DC did a tech course of some kind in 6th or 7th grade (I forget) where they were supposed to learn touch-typing, but the approach used was a program that “taught” them and timed results to measure success. The kids compared themselves to one another and the net result was that they (or at least my DC) taught himself to hunt-and-peck really fast because that produced better results in the short term than actually taking a step back, slowing down, and taking the time to learn to touch type.

        Sigh.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        UGH! The one DC1 did was a program that taught them, but thankfully wasn’t incentivized to hunt-and-peck, plus it was done online over the summer at our house where we were able to emphasize how important touch typing is. (They offer it in person during the school year one as well, but I think DC1 would have had to give up an elective for a semester to take it. So all the honors students do it over the summer.)

  5. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    Ugh we haven’t made a decision about this yet but my feeling: as late as possible without compromising safety. I just won’t know what that looks like until we get further along.

    JB’s cousins are doing some type of texting but I refuse to get them an apple product for this purpose. I really don’t think they need to have the ability to text their cousins at this point in life. They can write snail mail. Not that I’m a Luddite, it’s just that they’re so young to be getting glued to these screens (7 – 8) on top of the TV it feels like.

    I’m hoping there will be more slimmed down kid friendly options when we finally get around to answering this question for ourselves. Ideally I’d like it to be a flip phone for calling and texting only. I really hate the idea of navigating teen years with social media. I also really hate the idea of having kids over and everyone stares at their phones.

    • ilovecats10 Says:

      We let our 11 year old text from our phone as much as she wants and it’s been that way since she’s has friends who text (around age 9). Seems to solve a lot of the issues around not having a phone and feeling left out.

      • revanchegsl Says:

        I’ve occasionally allowed JB to text from my phone but hadn’t considered that could be a longer term solution. That could work!

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    We have done the phone in 6th grade as well with our older two boys, and Smurf will be getting one, too. Mostly because he will start walking back home from school, so for safety and for emergencies. Hubs is in charge of picking out plans for the boys and usually gives them his hand-me-downs as he himself is more into having the latest toy than I am. So Smurf will get some old Android phone, most likely.

    Re kids not going outside. I think kids simply interact differently now. Middle Boy is on Discord talking with friends all day. Why don’t they get together? They do, occasionally. Going to the mall, to the gas station for snacks, to sleepovers. But they also like to sit at home and play games together or separately but it parallel and at the same time talk. ‘Tis what they do now, in part because they are so highly constrained outside (Middle Boy has a girlfriend; Mom has to drive him to meet up with girlfriend; it is so different from how I grew up; then again, I walked everywhere, miles every day, and it was nbd).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC2 has been phoneless all summer but has actively kept in touch with hir pre-grade-skip friends via Minecraft play dates (plus a new kid that is hir replacement IRL). Zie has the contact info for all hir new friends but with the weather, pandemic, travel plans, and daycamps, they haven’t been able to get together. (They don’t play Minecraft.)

      Interestingly the new kids dad was like instead of us setting up the play dates and zoom etc why not let the kids all hang out on the same discord channel and do all this on their own. That was vetoed because zie was the only kid with no screen time limits (and a phone, though the leader of their little group has hir own tablet).

  7. First Gen American Says:

    Both kids got their phone once they started middle school. It was mostly because the number of after school activities outside of sports shoots way up at that point. Most of their friends had phones much sooner. Being phone-less had no affect on the extrovert’s social life but the introvert did fare better socially once phone communication with friends was possible.

    They both got hand me down iPhones as their first phone. #1 was on the hook to replace his phone with his own money when he lost his first phone. He handled subsequent phone with kid gloves once his own money paid for it. #2 currently has a cracked screen but he’s still on his first phone. He also can replace it when he’s ready with his own money. It’s a good lesson to know how many lawns he needs to mow to replace a phone.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 had to pay for new batteries every time zie lost or destroyed a flip phone but somehow that never translated either into being more careful or buying a smartphone.

      Zie lost the iPhone 6 at school days after getting an iPhone 8, but otherwise has been careful with the smartphone. We didn’t make hir replace it because it doesn’t work with our network anymore.

  8. Lisa Says:

    Our policy has been that the kids get a dumb phone (often on a separate provider than our phones) when they enter middle school (7th grade here). The oldest got a hand-me-down iPhone when they started high school (9th grade) and I assume #2 will as well. My youngest is 6 years behind #2, and we’ll see if our resolve lasts long enough to follow the same policy for them. When #1 got the iphone and #2 got the flip phone last fall, #3 saved up their money and bought themself a gizmo watch, which they love. I’ll admit it’s really handy to be able to text them to come home for dinner (when they remember to wear the watch).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re so lazy– the additional effort to get another provider was just too much for us. We’re like, we will take whatever Ting has to offer. In theory tracfone is super easy, but…

      The gizmo watch sounds neat. I don’t think any of DC2’s friends has them. (Some of the 5th graders last year had cell phones, but a lot of them still didn’t. There were a couple of times last semester when DC2 had to go to the school office to call us, including an orchestra pickup where DC2 didn’t know where DH was and vice versa, which was really embarrassing for us and a little traumatic for DC2.)


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