Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kids and Electronics aka Why I'm a Bad Parent

The hubs and I have decided to get his 9 year old daughter a phone, to give to her when she comes out this summer. I understand that this may be a controversial topic, however this was not a decision that was made lightly, or rashly. The reasons for it are too personal for the interwebs, but for this particular situation we feel like it is the best choice for our family.

Not my stepdaughter. Also source.

I *may* work for a large wireless carrier, and I may have had a line of service that was collecting dust which helped the decision making process. I may also have been able to procure the device for free during the St. Patty's holiday sale, and it's not going to cost me anything extra each month. I am also painfully aware that every other customer service call that my company receives starts with "My kid went over their allowance, and now my bill is $10,000..." so as soon as I got the phone, I started downloading games (fun and educational ones) and then started to put it on complete and total lock down.


She can only call specific numbers that are currently programmed into her phone. If she attempts to add a new contact, or call a number not currently listed, she's going to get an error message. If anyone tries to call her from a phone number not on her special dial list, they won't be able to get through. This also goes for text messages - sent and received. Yes, I am a genius.

Her phone will actually stop working if she approaches her allowance threshold - voice, data, or text - and will not reset until the next bill cycle, so she physically can't go over her usage.

The phone is also set up so that she can't text or call even her special people during certain times of day - examples of where this would be important would be during school hours, after she's supposed to be asleep, etc.

She can play the games that I've downloaded for her, but she can't download any new games, songs, movies (even free ones) unless I temporarily unlock her phone for her - which I can do remotely, since she's generally in FL and I'm generally not.

Lock, meet Key. *evil laugh* Source

Here's where the 'I'm a Bad Parent thing' starts.
The final step was to add usage controls to the content she could see on the internet. The options were for ages 7+, 13+ or 17+. I started with the 7+, and tested it, and then the unbelievable happened.

The phone couldn't access Google.

Google is my best (imaginary) friend, people.

This was inexcusable! How would she be able to answer the thousands of inane questions that go through a child's mind on a daily basis? She actually used google last summer to teach me a math problem I was struggling with at work. I swear, she looked up "How to do weighted averages in English" - kids are brilliant. This usage control was going to take that away?! The horror. I couldn't fathom locking it down. I couldn't take that potential knowledge from her.

So I moved up to 13+, and I tried again. She could get into Google, but she couldn't get into Wiki.

Wiki is my back-up (imaginary) best friend.

So then I went to 17+, but she still couldn't access Wiki. So then I gave up. I removed the content usage control.

*YAY Internet freedom!* Source

So here's where I want to ask you for your opinion. Do you think you should lock up knowledge to protect your children from accessing websites that could have foul content, or do you let them learn to enjoy learning, and teach them when they have questions about foul content?

All comments are welcome, but try to be respectful of the fact that people have different opinions.


  1. I think kids should have phones as soon as you decide they are old enough to go somewhere unsupervised. So, a kid old enough to walk to the community pool alone gets a phone.

    With the internet, I think we need to teach kids how to handle it. Teach them not to click on ads. Teach them not to interact with strangers. Teach them not to click on email links. When they set up accounts on email, facebook, etc, you get the password and you're friends with them, but you let them navigate the sites alone.

    Eventually, you have to take off the training wheels and let them go at it. But that's after they've proven that they can be trustworthy.

    If they prove to be NOT trustworthy... that's when you lock it down. I'm a believer in revoking privileges when kids show you that they are not ready. However, if you never give privileges, but wait for the child to prove they are ready... they never get the chance. Does that make sense? This might be easier to explain in some other format than a blog comment.

    There's also IvyJoy, if you're interested. I've never used it, because we aren't really "there" yet, but I've heard other people talk about it. It's a kid-friendly search engine: Worth checking out if the full internet turns out to be too much to handle.

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