Do you have a teenager? Then you have a cell phone bill.
According to WebMD 85% of teens ages 14-17 have cell phones, 69% of 11-14 year olds, and even one third of kids aged 8-10 have a phone of their own. Forget their first bicycle, kids want a cell phone!
When your kids are little and you see teens with phones, it’s tempting to shake your head. But then as our kids age and start all of the after school activities and sports in other cities, a cell phone seems like a great communication device.
The stats don’t lie. Most kids seem to have them, and their faces are constantly buried in them. Because they’re informing mom and dad of their whereabouts? Probably not. But it was a nice thought.
BUT kids can learn some great life lessons and some financial lessons too from those phones. Because a bill comes with that little “must have”!
But looking on the bright side, here are 3 Lessons Your Kid Can Learn From Having A Cell Phone:
1. Self-control is a good thing.
Cell phones are a privilege and a great way to teach your kids self-control.
We have a 14 and 16 year-old so we have plenty of opportunities to teach them self-control. One way we do that is at night, they have to take their phone and plug it in downstairs in the kitchen. This way, they learn there are times when you can use your cell phone and times when you need a break and can live without it.
The other way we use our cell phones to teach self-control is by making our dinner table, a “No Phone Zone”.
We’ve found the absence of phones at the table – that counts for Scott and I too – encourages better conversations and connection for all of us. We’ve all been out to eat and seen the families not talking and on their phones. Maybe there’s a situation right then that requires some research or something they need to share from their device, I’m not sure, but it sure doesn’t look like fun. We would love to encourage everyone to consider a “No Phone Zone” when you eat together as a family.
You will connect better and it teaches the kids another level of self-control.
2. What you say and do, matters – for a very long time.
It is easy for kids to think that the fleeting nature of texts or photos flying back and forth are temporary. They think, “I’m just sending this to my buddy. It’s funny. He’ll laugh and neither of us will ever see this again.” Well, that’s not always the case.
Help them see the lasting nature of anything they put “out there”.
When you are talking to them about what they want to do when they grow up. Show them a post and ask, “What might your future boss think of this post? This comment or photo could keep you from getting your dream job!”
Help them see the potential future consequence of their comments, photos, videos, etc. Even though some popular apps, like Snapchat, promise a photo that “disappears” after seconds. Don’t believe it. There are companies out there that are compiling all the information we are texting and posting. At some point in their life, companies may be able to buy a link associated with your name that will take them to everything you have ever posted. Some employers now have full time staff that research an applicant’s social media to see what information is out there about you.
So make sure they know that what they say and do matters – now and in the future!
3. If you want to play, you pay!
Cell phones cost money. Quite a bit! Make sure your kids understand this clearly. There are three things to show your kids on the cell phone bill.
First, show them the payment plan. Walk through how much it costs to use a cell phone every month.
Secondly, show them the maintenance expense. The insurance amount you pay in case someone’s phone gets lost or broken. We think that is a great thing to have with kids. We might be unique, but we usually ruin at least one phone a year. Let’s say maybe someone left their phone on the bed and the other person put the sheets in the washer and ruined it (I, Scott, still feel like that time was her fault!) you will need it!
Third, show them the data. Oh, data, data, data! Cole, our 16 year-old, uses more data than the other three of us combined. You have to show your kids data and the data limit, because they need to see what it costs and how much they are using. Discuss any possible payments they’ll need to fork over if they go over the data limit.
Let them know now, “Hey! Someday, this bill is going to be yours. You will pay for your own phone and data usage.” When they graduate from high school, whether they go into the workforce or off to college, let them know that bill becomes their problem. Better now to explain their future, young adult financial responsibilities so it is not a complete surprise.
There are lots of opinions about cell phones and their “pros” and “cons”, but the reality is, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon so why not figure out how to use those app-filled devices to teach your kids some good life lessons.
Communicate with your spouse about the best way to involve your kids in the privilege of “owning” a cell phone. Lessons they learn today could pay huge dividends for their future.
Make it happen!
Scott & Bethany Palmer
The Money Couple
Creators of the 5 Money Personalities