Let’s Talk About Phones for Pre-Teens

Okay, parents of children, pre-teens and teens… I’m doing some information gathering and I can use your help! We are planning to get Jack’s first cellphone (one that actually works as a phone, unlike when we did this) this summer. However, I plan on locking it DOWN so I’d love to know what rules you have for phones in your house and what apps you find helpful for your pre-teen kids.

Why are we getting him a phone now?

He’s starting middle school in the fall and there are days that he will be coming home from school before Travis or I get home. I want him to have a phone for safety, so that he can feel comfortable being home alone. We do not have a landline, so this makes the most sense. Also, many/most middle school kids have phones, so I want to introduce it slowly in a way that is purposeful and controlled by mom and dad.

Rather than wait until the week before middle school, I plan to get him his phone in the summer so he can get used to it and it’s not a ‘shiny new toy’ right before throwing him into 6th grade.

Let’s Talk Rules

Some rules we are currently considering for Jack’s phone:

  • He can use the phone for calling, texting, internet searches, camera/photos/video, and I’m planning to let him have a few games on there.
  • He is only allowed to call or text an approved list of family and select friends. No adding new friends’ numbers without clearing it by mom and dad.
  • Mom will look at his texts. Keep it classy.
  • Phones are put on a charger in mom and dad’s room at a certain time at night and not accessed again until a certain time the next morning.
  • No social media. None. He’s 11, so he is underage for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and anything else they come up with.

Let’s Talk Apps

There are a million parental control apps out there, so I’d love to hear your personal recommendations.

So far, I’ve had Life360 recommended to me, which sounds pretty great. It has a free level, which might be fine for us. It allows the three of us to track each other’s locations, so Jack can see if mom or dad is home, and how far away we are if we are still working. There are also “Place Alerts” that we can set, which will send an automated text when Jack gets to pre-determined places, such as school and home.

I’ve also heard about Net Nanny, which allows you to build custom web search filters.

I’m open to hearing about any and all apps that help your family feel comfortable with a pre-teen with a phone!

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5 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Phones for Pre-Teens”

  1. Hi! I think you can block him from certain internet searches or catagories. You can look for blocking on some phones and tablets. I think this is correct. If not, I am sorry.

  2. I just looked up parent controls on my Fire tablet, and parents can have control over the content your child can access. This is probably available on many phones.

  3. We waited until 12, he was the last one in his grade to get a phone (he said kindergarteners have phones on the bus which I think is crazy). We have all the same rules you do. He told us he didn’t want social media and his mom saying no was a great excuse for his friends. We went with a cheaper Galaxy and we have full access to his google account so we know what he is browsing and downloading from Google Play. We also went with a prepaid plan with limited data because it was cheaper and he has to think about what he wants to use his data on. If he wants more data, he needs to pay for it. He is a strict rule follower, so we haven’t had any issue so far.

    1. Thanks Erin – great tips! I charged up my old iphone 6s (I retired it back in 2019) and it seems like it is holding a charge fine, so we are just going to use that since we already own it. My kiddo also doesn’t seem too concerned about social media (at this point), so giving the ‘mom says’ excuse is fine by me!

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