When do you give your kid a cell phone? What kind of boundaries do you set? From banning social media to limiting how much time they can spend on their phones, it feels like there will always be a battle over cell phones. And, yeah, that battle usually starts with deciding if and when you even want your kid to have a phone. The world is a scary place full of creeps, and the idea of giving those weirdos one more way to latch onto our kids is, let’s be honest, a little terrifying. All of which are reasons why one TikTok mama has come up with a clever solution for cell phones, phone safety, and easing your family into the fully connected life: a cell phone that’s a house phone.
One of the smartest ways to handle cell phones and kids is to make sure you’re setting up your kid to be as safe as possible — which is easier said than done when you give your kid a personal cell phone and they immediately assume it’s “private.” Furthermore, no one likes to feel like a snoop… even when you know it’s for their own good. But here’s where the brilliance of the “house” cell phone comes into play. Confused? It’s actually a pretty simple, inexpensive solution that will let both parties (parents and kids) feel like they’re winners in the cell phone “fight.” At least for a while.
“What age is the right age to get a kid a cell phone? I came up with an idea that works for my family, and it might work for yours, too,” begins Tori Phantom. “We have a home phone without a landline. It’s an iPhone that isn’t private property. It’s a smartphone that stays at home, and anyone can use it, which is a great tool for teaching kids about phone safety.”
This updated version of a landline house phone (yes, landlines exist, Gen Z) comes with a few sweet perks that didn’t exist when we were kids.
“Now, the bonus of this home phone is that it can leave the house if one of my kids is going out without me,” Phantom continues. “This really only comes up with my oldest kid. She doesn’t need or even want a phone. And she’s a tween, so none of her pants have pockets, so where would she even put it? But, if she’s going to her friend’s house without me, she can take the phone with her, and we have a way to communicate.”
Of course, it’s not just a phone that one sibling has and the other kids borrow. It belongs to the whole family. It has texting capabilities and Facetime, too. “Anyone can use it,” stipulates the TikTok mom. “My middlest kiddo likes to call me when I’m at the store. One time there was a spider on the wall. Most times, she wants me to bring home Oreos. My oldest likes to Facetime my brother so she can play Stardew Valley with her uncle.”
Phantom explains that the idea came in a moment of exasperation — no doubt the same one that spurred many parents to invest in the “second line” for their homes when we were kids.
“I came up with this idea when my oldest kid started giving my phone number out to her friends. I got dropped in a group chat with a bunch of 10-year-olds and thought, ‘This isn’t gonna work.’ So I got a new phone line on my old iPhone. And now we got a home phone,” shared Phantom. “Giving your kids an iPhone without the expectation of privacy attached to it gives you a lot of room for conversations about phone safety and etiquette,” Phantom explains. “We’re currently working on spamming — texting me ‘Mom’ 70 times is not gonna get me to pick up my phone while driving. Anyway, doing it this way has made me feel comfortable with giving my kids access to a phone. However, there is no social media allowed on it.”
Many of us use those iPhones until they’re beyond saving, and only then do we get a new one. But it doesn’t have to be an iPhone or even a phone once owned by you. Refurbished phones are relatively cheap options, and you can often find neighbors giving out old phones in your neighborhood “buy nothing” group. Not sure you can afford the cost of an extra line on your phone bill? Most smartphones can work on wifi, and you might also look into safe calling apps. Another alternative is switching to a cheaper carrier, like Mint or PureTalk.
However you connect your kids to their friends, there are no wrong answers as long as you teach them how to be safe. It’s also entirely acceptable to avoid phones altogether. Remember how quiet life was before we all had cell phones?