Saturday, January 30, 2010

How Young is Too Young

For a kid to have a cell phone and to be left home alone?

What, you thought I was talking about something else? Get your minds out of the gutter!

Darling Boy aka DB is 9 years old and in 4th grade. We can't drop him off at school until 8:15, which most days isn't a problem. His best friend lives right next door, and his mom has offered for us to send him over each morning at 8:00 and she'll take the boys to school. For the most part, this arrangement works very well, except when Veronica needs to be at work earlier than 8:30 and I can't step in to take care of getting the kids out the door.

Such as during this past week. For 3 days Veronica had training in downtown Boston, and due to traffic, etc she had to leave pretty early. Normally I leave the house around 7-7:15 and am at my desk by 8:00 at the latest, so not getting in until 8:45-9:00 really messes up my day.

So we decided to leave DB alone in the house. Veronica left with Princess Persistent around 7:00 and I left for work around 7:30. DB was left with written instructions on what to do. Feed and water the dog, put the dog in the garage (the destructive little fucker can't be trusted to be left alone in the house!), turn out the lights, and to lock and close the door behind him. When I left I told him he could watch a cartoon and when that was over, it was time to head to the neighbors house. We had a little safety net in the neighbor, who was expecting him to come over at 8:00 and would come looking for him if he didn't show up on time.

We're pretty comfortable with this arrangement. DB did really well and didn't mess up any of the instructions we left for him. On other occasions, we've left him home alone for a little while, 30 minutes to an hour during the middle of the day, and he's done just fine.

But there is one thing we're uneasy about- we don't have a land line at home, Veronica and I only have our cell phones. What if there was a problem? What if one of us just wanted to check up on him? What if the neighbors aren't home? We have no way of getting in touch with each other if we needed or wanted to.

I can't believe I'm thinking about getting a cell phone for a 9 yr old, but I am. Next year we're considering not enrolling him in the after-school program and just having him come home on the bus and letting him have the house to himself for as much as 2 hrs before Veronica or I get home.

We're certainly not getting him anything fancy, just a basic phone for making calls and sending text messages. We can add a line to our calling plan for $10/month and get a flip phone for free.

Okay fellow parents, tell me, how old were your kids when you started leaving them alone, even for short periods of time? What are your thoughts about kids and cell phones? What sort of restrictions do you impose on their use? If you don't have kids or yours aren't old enough for this to be an issue yet, what are your plans?


Hubman said...

I'm just commenting on my own post to subscribe to comments. So leave a comment dammit!

peedee said...

ok, as a single mother I was forced to let my kid be a "latchkey" kid from 4th grade on.
It worked. We had a system of she had to call me right before she stepped out the door to go to school and call the minute she got home. Her school at the time had a policy of calling the parent by 8:30 if they didnt show up for school and hadnt been called in sick. So this kinda worked for me.
I can say that she did awesome. Only one time did she not call me and I panicked and called the school and they checked and she was in class.

Now this was before cell phones and if we had the issue of needing a phone at the time I certainly would have gotten her one.
You can totally restric cell phone usage for kids these days. Most of the major cell companies have some sort of program.

In the end if he's showing the ability to handle the responsibility and your increasing those at a pace he can handle your making a more responsible kid in the end.

My child (who's now 21) was I think that much more prepared for the world by being a latchkey kid.

One more thing, I understand the fear. As I got more comfortable giving her more responsibility and increasing her independance I didnt worry so much about her choices. She always seemed to make the right ones. It was outside forces, the other people and kids she came into contact with that worried me.

Hope this helped. =)

Anonymous said...

It's my belief that whether or not you can give a cell phone to a kid largely depends on A) how responsible they already are, and B) how they've been raised. It certainly seems as if you and Veronica have given DB the foundation he needs to be "trusted" with a cell phone.

Don't over think; it seems like a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Maturity is the key. Oh, and the understanding that the phone is for YOUR convenience -- not theirs. My youngest is 15, and we got her a phone earlier than I planned. I think maybe 12?? She was spending more time away from us, and I wanted/needed to be able to reach her. Mostly it's worked out. . . except that the first phone was trashed repeatedly (we didn't make a good choice. Make sure you get a 'hardy' phone. They take a lot of abuse!). The turning point was a baptism that resulted in her getting my old phone.

She is older now and takes care of it better now. I do insist that she leaves it downstairs to charge every school night. Sleep is too important. You'd be surprised at how many kids call/text way too late.

Suburban Hotwife said...

MY child is about the same age as yours and would LOVE to have a cell phone. However, we are not faced with the same dilemma as you, and do not see the need for one at this time.

That being said, our situation will change in about 18 months and at that point I am sure we will get a phone for out preteen then. I will be a nervous wreck, because our schedules and arrangements will be completely different and new to all of us. Lord help me! I will probably be texting and calling every half hour!

I do remember a few years ago Disney has a cell phone and plan designed especially for families with kids. You could create and manage your own settings for usage and restrictions and it included a GSP feature to track your child's whereabouts.
Do other providers do that as well?

Ms. Lily said...

We started leaving our son home to run errands, go to get coffee etc, when our girls went to bed, he was around 12(our girls were 4-2) when we started doing that, and we do the same w/our daughter since she was about 11(she is 12 now and her sister is 10). We do have a land line, since my knight works for Verizon, lol. The boy got his first cell when he went to HS since he was on the soccer team and would stay after for practices etc. We just got K her 1st cell this paste fall. We have Verizon wireless, add a line for $10option also, and they do have a parental guidance option which is great and we have the age appropriate filter on her phone.
Parenting is fun, lol, every child and situation is different, I'm sure you guys will make the best decision for you situation. Good luck

TentCamper said...

for the cell phone thing...Our policy is "not until Middle School" and then we have the right to check all texts and they are not to be used after a specified time at night.
(In your case, without a land line...I'd say get a phone and leave it on the kitchen counter like you would a land line and have that be for use if he is home alone.

I think all kids are different when it comes to being home alone. I think that by 4th or 5th grade they should be ready to handle an hour or two long as they have a way to communicate if needed and there is someone close by if there were an emergency.

Keith Wilcox said...

My boys are still way too young to be left home alone for anything longer than a trip to the mailbox (age 7 and 5). This is a question I've grappled with in my own head without any resolution. I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I get there

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

My soon to be 8 year old has a cell phone.

We don't have land lines either

and I like being able to get a hold of him when he's over at a friends house.

He's left home alittle in the morning... like 20 minutes... but the cell phone eases my mind.

He hates it though lol it's a bother to him

He has to call and report that he turned everything off and is heading to school.

IT works awesome for us and I feel so much more comfortable with it.

So I say... GO FOR IT!

singlemomma_cc said...

What if it wasnt "his" phone....maybe you could add another cell phone that is the "house" phone. That way you are able to check in and he can call you.
Im a single mom and on the RARE occasion that I have a sitter come to the house where I also do not have a landline....I have an extra cell phone I keep at home for the sitters.
Just depends on the kid I guess and it sounds like DB is doing quite well with responsibility. Good work mom & dad!

Hubman said...

Sorry it took me so long to reply to comments, maybe I shouldn't have posted this the same weekend I was driving to NY and back to meet my new nephew! (And having only limited internet access while I was there!).

Thanks for all of your comments, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's nervous about starting to grant my kid "home alone" freedom.

Singlemomma_cc, I especially like your idea that the phone is the "house" phone and not his, thank you for that idea!

Mariah said...

Ileft my kids alone for brief amounts of time at the age of 7 and slowly worked up from there, I still don't leave my 10 year alone for too long, even though she could totally handle it!! As far as cell phones go, our house rule is they get them in middle school and they are taken away frequently for misuse

Daddy Geek Boy said...

I dunno...3...3 1/2? As long as a window is cracked and a TV is on, right?

(Parent of the year)

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