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My 13-Year-Old's Cell-Phone Petition

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Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: A couple of weeks ago, my oldest sat my husband and me down at the kitchen table for a conversation that was a role-reversal of sorts. We were each handed an envelope; one said "Mom" and one said "Dad." We were given strict instructions not to open those envelopes until directed to do so. This child was turning 13 in two weeks, and was apparently preparing his case for his most coveted gift: a cell phone.

"As you both know, I am turning the age of 13 very soon, and the common question to ask is, 'Matthew, what do you want for your birthday?'" he said. "If you have already asked this question, then that's why I'm reading this to you. If you haven't, I have picked this as the appropriate time to present my answer to you in a very professional way, but [with] a 'Matthew twist.' Please try to stay serious throughout the entire speech, with the exception of an occasional giggle [for] the 'Matthew twist' -- and BTW, that was supposed to make you giggle. So, without further ado, here is my answer [insert drum roll here]:

"I would like a Verizon Wireless Samsung Reality in piano black for a measly $19.99 (not including monthly fees). If you open the envelope with your official designated parent name, you will find a picture of it with all the details needed in order to at least consider this gift, which is accompanied by six 'Hug + Kiss Coupons,' so that not only I benefit from this opportunity."

Matthew's plea included his top five reasons for needing/wanting a phone and ended with, "Thank you for your time, and I love you." With tears in our eyes, we hugged and kissed him and told him we would consider his plea.

For the next two weeks, we went round and round. Does he want it just because his friends have it? If that's the reason, the answer is simple: "NO!" After much conversation and consideration, we decided he would NOT be getting a phone. He is rarely anywhere alone; all of his friends have cells, so he can use theirs if he needs anything; the annual expense of adding him to our plan was not insignificant. So, "NO." Matthew would remain phoneless.

Matthew is an "A" student, a good friend and a passionate actor and artist who learns his lines with little to no help from us. He does all his homework and has never been in trouble at school. He speaks with appropriate language and doesn't disrespect anyone, so ....The day before Matthew's birthday, my husband called me on his lunch break. He was at the Verizon store and was looking at phones and plans. Matthew went with my husband the next day to choose his phone.

So far, he has been responsible with it. He has been OK with the parameters we have set, and I am glad we changed our minds. My husband and I are both getting soft in our old age. And the upside? We will not have to wrack our brains to figure out a gift for our daughter, who will turn 13 in fifteen months.

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22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 11, 2010, 7:32 AM

My SIL spends a lot of time complaining about the cell phone bill her 10 yo racks up. It never seems to occur to her that he is 10 and probably shouldn’t have a phone. (Then again her 2 yo shouldn’t have a sippy full of coffee either, but that is a different story) I don’t get giving phones to kids under the driving age, or under the age that they hang out with kids that drive. Where are they that they aren’t being monitored and need a phone?!

Anonymous October 11, 2010, 9:33 AM

I think 13 is a reasonable age to get a phone. He may not be alone much now, but within the next few years it may happen more and more. Also, I’m not sure it would have been fair to have him use his friends’ cell phones: they have plans and limited minutes, and I’m sure their parents don’t want to pay for other kids’ calls. That said, I think you guys made a good decision, and it sounds like your son really thought through his proposal. It seems far from an impulsive “But EVERYONE has one” teenage desire.

PartlySunny October 11, 2010, 11:12 AM

Sounds like you made the right decision to me. And Anonymous 1, the coffee in the sippy cup thing is killin’ me. Your SIL is priceless.

Robyn October 11, 2010, 12:10 PM

I don’t think you were being soft. Sounds like your son did a respectful job of presenting his case and after a lot of thought and consideration you were able to come to a reasonable agreement that worked out for all. I don’t agree with your statement that “He is rarely anywhere alone; all of his friends have cells, so he can use theirs if he needs anything”. In this day and age, cell phones are the norm, and you can’t assume one will always be available for his use, or that he will always be comfortable asking to borrow someone’s. Heaven forbid as your child ventures into his teens that he might end up in a situation where he needs to get out of quickly, but isn’t comfortable using someone else’s phone. I too was once 13 and a very good kid who landed myself in a bad situation. Cell phones were not the norm then and luckily my parents had given me theirs for the evening “in case of an emergency”. There was an incident that occurred and I felt very uncomfortable and needed to leave immediately. I had that phone and I to this day believe having it saved me from what could have been a very bad situation. Needless, I didn’t get my own phone until later in high school where I paid for it and the monthly bill myself and have ever since. I think you guys made the right decision though. Times change…

abby October 11, 2010, 12:39 PM

my brother turned 12 last year and got a cell phone…my parents tried the same argument “you’re never alone” and he said thats because I dont have a cell phone so I cant be alone…using someone else’s phone is embarassing once your 13 so most kids dont want too…I got my phone when I was 12 and had the same phone for 3 years and just got a new one for my 15th birthday (the droid which I love) my parents had unlimited texting once I was put on the plan and I barely called anyone so the bill was never much because I stuck to the plan and so did both of my brothers when they were added…as long as you set rules and your kids has good grades and stuff then I don’t see an issue with having a cell at 13

nutmac October 11, 2010, 4:50 PM

How one raises kids is entirely personal decision. But I will be getting my son a cell phone when he’s old enough. It also helps that we do not have landline phone at home (which costs more than $15/month), so it’s more matter of necessity for us.

That said, beyond $10/month for adding another wireless line, my son will use his allowance toward “optional” feature like messaging ($5-20/month) and Internet ($10-30/month).

Many “cooler” phones require Internet feature (Samsung Reality requires $10/month Internet plan) and since most teenagers send and receive numerous messages per month, most teenagers need at least basic messaging plan. (If your kid’s phone is a smartphone like Android or iPhone, there are free unlimited texting apps that uses the Internet.) It is also important for parents to stay on top of their kid and monitor usage from carrier’s website.

Bruce October 12, 2010, 7:43 AM

I would have consider it and I would have given him the phone. I mean the kid really made a clever request, made it politely, and if he is such a good kid the idea seems not too far away. I mean at least he wasn’t asking for Kamagra or something.

Frances  October 12, 2010, 10:37 PM

It sounds like he is a mature boy for his age, and has thought through his reasoning. Presumably he had considered the likely counter-arguments. From what you have said, I think you made the right choice.

Spottedfeather October 13, 2010, 10:37 PM

What the heck does a 10 year old need with a cell phone ? Or what does a 13 year old need with one, for that matter ? Cell phone’s didn’t exist when I was 13, and we turned out fine. Anyone who gets a phone for anyone under 18 is a total moron.

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stptxting November 3, 2010, 7:45 AM

I agree with Spottedfeather, why does a 13 year old need a cell phone and what are you going to give him on his 16th birthday and how are you going to keep him from texting while driving, have you thought of that? We had to bury our 23 year old son, a United States Marine that had A LOT of “responsabilities” because he was texting and driving. He knew better and was a mature adult. We now have nothing but memories of our son and we speak at conventions, schools and anywhere we can because a 2x4 inch box took his life and now we live a nighmare every day… Good luck with your son and I hope you have a chip in his phone so that when he does start driving his phone will not receive or send ANYTHING if he is going over 10mph… God Bless

Sarah November 3, 2010, 8:25 AM

You guys are dumb. I would die without my phone. Kay bye.

andrew  January 6, 2011, 1:00 AM

you are all wrong you all kids over five and up should have iphones blackberrys all kinds of phones i am 10 years old and i have an iphone

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Ben Longbotham March 16, 2011, 8:05 PM

I’d be inclined to concur with you here. Which is not something I typically do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!

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