Preteens and Cell Phones, Oh My!


This week is birthday week at the Faulk house. Ana is turning eleven today, and Emma is turning ten on Wednesday. If I’ve learned anything in my decade of parenting, it’s to never say never… because eventually, that kind of talk will come back to bite you. With a vengeance.

Such is the story I’m about to tell. Let me set the stage for you…

We’re living in Vidalia, a town where everyone knows everyone and it doesn’t take but five minutes to drive anywhere. I’m a stay at home mom who can basically drop anything at any time to get to my kids. We’re all together almost all of the time, and I’ve congratulated myself on this, going so far as to tell Wes that these babies of mine won’t need to have cell phones or drive or be independent at all until they’re ready to go to college. (And maybe not even then, because I could get a job at LSU working in the cafeteria or something. Hey, girls! It’s me! Mommy! Girls?)

How has that worked out for me? Fine until this past spring when the girls spent some time up at the church without me, didn’t know when exactly their activities and events would be over, and suggested to me that the solution to the communication problem wasn’t me sitting in the parking lot waiting for and stalking them (darn it) but letting them take my phone and call Wes when it was time to come home. That worked out well enough until Wes was somewhere else and I needed a phone, the girls needed a phone —

“You know,” Wes said, “the girls might be getting to the age that they need a cell phone.”

To which I said, “I didn’t get a cell phone until I went to college. And I only used it in emergency situations.”

To which Wes said, “You know that was twenty years ago, right?”

Ouch. But true.

Times have changed, yes, but it seemed ridiculous to me that we were even considering giving smart phones to our girls, given how young they are. I suggested flip phones and those phones that only call one number, and Wes showed me how that would actually be more expensive since we already had two older model iPhones that we weren’t using.


“But the internet!” I exclaimed, sounding about thirty years older than I actually am. “They can’t have access to the internet!!!” And Wes answered that protest by telling me that they’re growing up in this century and not in the one I grew up in (sigh) and that they need to learn how to navigate these things with us monitoring them as preteens rather than being thrown into it unfiltered at eighteen.

Well, probably.

And to be fair, the girls have been using laptops this past year. We’ve been using the same kind of filtered/monitoring program on those, and before we even get texts about perfectly innocent pop-ups being blocked on their computers, they come to us and tell us what they were doing when they got the restricted notifications on their computers. (Most often they get blocked because their kid sites try to sell them something, and our settings block the girls from getting those ads. I’m looking at you, Nick Jr.) The girls have proven that they can be responsible with computers – both physically keeping them in good condition and refraining from going to questionable sites. How different is a cell phone, really?

It isn’t. Sigh.

So, all those words I said in the past ten years about how my kids weren’t going to need cell phones until they were adults… well, I’m eating them right now. We talked with parents who are ahead of us on this road and asked all kinds of questions. We did our research and played around with some different filtering options. (Wes managed to lock me out of just about everything on my phone in the process, which was fun for him. “No Facebook for you! No one-click on Amazon for you! No App Store for you!” Grr…) We set up filtering for them that would allow them to learn to use a smart phone without giving them access to all that entails.

In other words, we committed to doing this cell phone thing. I know. I’m shaking my head right along with you because “I never” and all, but this is where we’re at. With Ana starting junior high in a few weeks (how can that be?), it’s the right time. Why is Emma getting in on this when she’s a fifth grader? Because that’s the benefit of having a sister who’s just a year older than you. She gets an early pass to most things because it’s better to transition them both at the same time so that they learn together. We’re going to make some mistakes as we monitor them and help them learn how to use their phones responsibly. They’re going to make some mistakes as they figure out how to use their cell phones. But we’re determined to start that process now, when they still think we’re cool (they do!) and can appreciate us sitting alongside them and clicking through apps and text messages, talking about these things honestly.

Pray for us as we continue to learn how to raise godly young adults. It’s all fun and games now as I’m getting texted 4,856,201 emoji texts a day (which is not really all that fun now that I think about it), but we know there are learning days ahead. Pray that we’d have wisdom and that God would continue to put older godly parents in our lives who can help us along the way.

Gotta go and check that 4,856,202 text I just got sent…

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