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Monday, August 10, 2015

Huge Parenting Mistake, Buying Your Kid An Expensive Cell Phone

There are many mistakes you can make with your wallet.  The biggest mistake of all, if you're a parent, is trying to substitute your lack of participation as a guardian with the ringer that is gift giving.

Though your money may save you at times when your children hate you the most, I can assure you somewhere down the line it will be time for YOU to pay the piper.  Do you know when kids let their crappy parents really have it?  I mean like seriously go on a vengeance spree aimed at killing you brutally, but slowly, for all the things you did or didn't do?  I'll tell you...high school!


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I was at least one fourth family counselor as an assistant principal at a large public, urban, high school the past ten years.  And I saw many parents attempt to keep the peace between themselves and their teen son or daughter, by buying them out.  Nice clothes, fancy shoes, but most expensive of all, a state of the art cell phone with a bling-bling case to go with it.

I'm not going to get all educational with you here.  Yes, in today's society we have many parents, especially single-head of households, who struggle raising one or more children and do whatever they can to keep their children "happy."  However, these parents aren't alone in making poor parental economic decisions.  Parents of all walks of life have a chink in their armor, pierced by the incessant requests of adolescents and teens.  

"Mom...can I get new shoes?"
"But I just bought you new shoes two months ago."
"I know, but the ones I want are double-air gel Zooms with glow in the dark laces.  Every kid at school is getting them!"

A week later mom or dad capitulates, and gets those Zooms so the annoyance stops.  And it does for a while, until the same kid drops his or her cell phone, cracking the screen.  Then it's back to the mall, right?

For the life of me, I cannot understand why parents buy their kids, some as small as 4th and 5th graders, expensive cell phones.  School officials and many teachers hate seeing these sophisticated gadgets around, for good reason.  I get that parents want to be able to communicate with their kids while school is in session.  And also that they want their kids to be able to reach them at any time.  But boy are you, mom or dad, making a huge mistake allowing yourself to be convinced (by someone smaller/younger than you) on spending top dollar for a smart phone not meant for your own hands.  Here are three reasons why:

1.  Your kid is overconfident about their ability to take care of their smart phone.  That was one of their selling points, right?  "Don't worry, mom, I will take great care of it and be as responsible as I am with Lassie."
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2.  Your kid is naive about the underground workings of a public school.

3.  Your kid doesn't have the self-control you think they have.

Public schools are where smart phones go to get smashed, cracked, lost, or stolen.

On any given walk around the school during a recess, I am able to spot a kid using a cell phone with a cracked screen.  As a an assistant principal, numerous smashed or lost cell phones were turned in to me by responsible students.  In fact, I'd have an entire collection of them in my desk drawer by the end of the school year.

Let me scare you into some sense now.

In my ten years as an administrator, I had at least 300 parents come to my office upset about their kid's phone being stolen at school.  I had at least 500 kids ask me if someone brought up an (insert their expensive brand) to the office.  I also had over 200 cases of spending time tracking down a stolen phone, and had over 1000 incident reports where the incident was a stolen phone, placed inside my mailbox by a student.




The irony of it all was that every year, the school published their liability policy: "The school is not responsible for lost or stolen cell phones, and will not investigate theft in some cases.  Bring these at your own risk."


The school year is about to begin again.  I guarantee you, mom or dad, that you will most likely not read the student manual, or the policies on electronic devices at school, and when your son or daughter's expensive smart phone is stolen, you will be upset at the school.
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You will blame the teacher who confiscated the phone (because your kid couldn't stop using it in class) and left it in their drawer for a thief of a student to opportunistically steal it during class.

You will be upset at the teacher who wasn't looking around when your kid left their iPhone 6 on top of their desk to go sharpen their pencil, only to return and it no longer being there.

You will complain about the security in the locker rooms because your kid's Samsung Galaxy 8 was stolen out of their locked locker.

You will yell at the School Resource Officer for not going after your daughter's friend who "borrowed" the phone only to have let someone else use it and now...it has disappeared!

I could write an entire book on the most creative ways I've seen expensive cell phones be stolen at school.  Legally, every kid that has their cell phone stolen by one or more scummy kids is a victim.  But in all honesty, a quarter of this victimization is placed on the shoulders of parents who gave in, and bought their kid the $300-$800 phone.  Another quarter of this unfortunate scenario is on the kid who trusted their public school environment, or their attention to detail, way too much.  And finally, a half of the blame is on our society for producing bad kids who steal from anyone to make easy money.

If a school has an electronic policy and you still allowed your kid to go to school possessing an expensive cell phone, DO NOT DARE BLAME THE SCHOOL!

The Solutions:

1.  Buy your student a cheap phone!  One that can text and make calls, and that's that.  Students do not need expensive cell phones with data plans that in some cases rival the ones some executives have.  

2.  If they whine and complain about not having a smart phone, buy them two phones.  You can get a "Straight Talk" prepaid phone at Walmart with no contract and month to month service for as little as $28.88!  They turn in their smart phone (the one under contract) to you each morning before they leave the house, and you give them their prepaid one to have at school.  Seems a bit ridiculous for a kid to have two phones, I know, but if not this, then you are stuck with number one or having to do number three below:

3.  Buy Insurance.  You will be paying more monthly over the lifetime of the phone, and you will need to find one that covers it all: loss, damage, or theft.  Read the fine print!  

Even if you insure your kid's phone, the emotional pain of losing a phone to carelessness or theft, is too much for many teens to handle.  Some take days to recover from the trauma!  Meanwhile, they're unable to focus on their learning.  This is why as an educator, I recommend solution #1.  Let them have an at home tablet they can tinker with.

Get them used to a basic phone from day one and enjoy peace of mind through senior year.  If you don't heed my advice and challenge the odds, if something happens, remember...I told you so!    

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