Cell phones

During the family weekends on each campus, I attended a meeting to hear parents’ thoughts on student access to cell phones and social networking sites such as Facebook. Most parents present voiced their strong desire for their sons and daughters to have either very limited access or no access to cell phones, with a bit more support for Facebook. A major reason given by parents for not supporting more cell phone access was the hours of time spent by their offspring texting as well as talking.
One mother, in response to this concern, said, “One way around the texting issue is not to pay for the texting.” It made me wonder how many parents pay for their student’s cell phone bill each month. It also reminded me of the conversation I had when one of my kids asked, “Dad, can I get a cell phone?” “Sure,” I said. “Great! When will you buy it for me?” came the reply. Prepared for this, my response was, “You asked me if you can have a cell phone. Sure; use your money to buy one and to pay the monthly bill. I think that it is a great way to learn about personal financing and responsibility.” That answer did not go over well, but I felt at the time and still do feel it was the right answer.
I remember my own father making me earn money to buy a new bike when I was a kid to teach me the value of both work and money. While the sought-after item has changed in the ensuing 40 years, I don’t think the basic principle has. It obviously left an impression on me after all these years, and I came to appreciate that lesson as I got older and assumed more responsibility for myself. My hope is that I have done the same for my kids.