Currently in my normal flow of my creative storytelling, with a mixture of everything-else-in-life, I’m seven days behind in my blog project. The photographs are captured and processed, but each awaits its accompanying story; but, hey, that’s alright because it gives me extra time to compose several stories inside my big thick skull.

There are a few “narrative biggies” that are queued, each deserving of thoughtful reflection, and selection of suitable adjectives and nouns. Without further ado, I submit for your approval—the first in several related stories—a five-letter synonym for responsibility: iPhone.

Thirteen is the Magic Number

We have a minimum age, in our household, for anyone who wishes to own a cellphone—the autumn of your thirteenth birthday which is when the newly minted teenager begins to attend Teen Group at church. With an increase in grown-up-type-things and a decrease in child-type-things, my rational is that age seems to be a suitable starting point to begin seriously teaching kids responsibility—as well as expectations, financial planning, respect, privacy, entitlement, and consequences.

Sadly, I can think of a few adults that lack a well-rounded skillset in the previous list of character attributes, but I’m probably getting ahead of myself. If you think that your kid is entitled to the luxury of cellphone ownership, you’re setting yourself up for parental failure. If your kid is demanding a cellphone—because everyone else has one—you’re also paving a road of double-lane heartache. You will have lost the opportunity to teach your kid essential life skills.

Hey, I’m not one to judge, and I’ll just say what I see in the playbook of other parenting tactics. Some parents give into childish peer-pressure, and want to satisfy their kid’s every request because other kids in the neighborhood are owning a cellphone. Other parents use a cellphone as a device for distraction—just keep yourself busy in the car, at the store, on the grandparent’s couch. But more on that topic in future storytime.

Many parents continue to fail when it comes to permitting or not permitting cellphone ownership. It’s that simple. Sorry, but that’s what I see in my peer group of parents, however I am a firm believer in teaching children and giving them a chance to learn essential life skills.

Ten Bucks and a Handful of Object Lessons

This phone isn’t going to be free, you know? As a object lesson in responsibility, we have never just given either of the two qualified kids a cellphone without stipulations. The cost of your first iPhone is ten bucks a month, for the duration of the two-year contract, with a grand total of $240 dollars for the privilege of owning a cellphone. By requiring my kid to pay a portion of the device cost, they learn a few key concepts in life, including: earning cash to pay for their device, and budgeting money on a monthly basis. Ten bucks a month is a hefty sum of dollars to save and/or earn for a teenager without a steady part-time job.

Privacy is another touchy subject for some parents, but my kids have an understanding that their device—parents know the passcode at all times—can and will be reviewed on a regular basis, including email, texting, and social media conversations. Peer-to-peer conversations and communications are essential to maintaining and growing a friend base; however, never has it been easier to contact people on the opposite side of the globe, as well as access information on any subject—for better or usually for worse—and I believe that is a parental responsibility to protect your inquisitive children across all fronts.

Phil: What if there were no tomorrow? Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted! ~ Groundhog Day (1993)

How about the concept of consequences? Have you breached that subject with your kid? I lost my phone; my phone screen is cracked; my device was stolen from the gym locker. Kids need to be taught that there is a cause and effect to everything in life. If you lose your phone, a replacement device will not magically show up on your nightstand. If you drop your phone and crack the screen, it’s going to remain cracked. For our kids, we have invested in device insurance plans—we’ve actually had to use the insurance policy to replace one phone that became corrupted, not once but twice. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences, and any applicable replacement or policy fees will need to be covered.

Without a personal investment in Project Cellphone, your kid will simply see the device as another type of disposable toy. I predict that you (and your child) are six-months away from the following scenario: “I need the newest and latest iPhone X, Y, or Z.” That statement is rooted in a lack of responsibility and an over-inflated sense of entitlement. No, you don’t need the better camera or facial recognization, and neither do I.

I think kids deserve more than this. No, I’m not talking about deserving some gadget, device, or doodad, just because their friends are given the same no-strings luxury. Kids deserve the opportunity to learn how to be responsible, how to save money for a purchase that they deem important, and learn the concept of consequences. I honestly believe that a large purchase, such as a cellphone, can have a positive influence in your child’s development, if done correctly; however, in the same breath, a cellphone without stipulations or personal investment is one of the worst things that a parent can do for their kid.

That’s my two cents. I’m sure in twenty-two years from today the cellphone conversation will be a moot point, as I can imagine that everyone will have a communication device strapped to their arm or embedded into their nervous system; although, the main points of my narrative will remain true: one cannot learn responsibility without an actual opportunity to learn responsibility.

Give your kid a chance to prove themselves responsible, or at least an opportunity to learn some essential life skills—they may just surprise you.