I got our four-year-old his own smartphone. He can't read and he rarely can stay on a call for more than five minutes at a time, but I don't regret the decision at all. Last week, Ian asked for my phone so he could take a picture. He's been asking for my phone more and more, but for photos not games. This was the picture he took.
Not bad for his first photo. The best part is he understands how not to block the lens. He knows how to unlock my phone, navigate to Instagram, frame the shot he wants, and press the shutter button while keeping the phone steady. I just have to make sure he is aware of traffic in the parking lot while he's composing his masterpiece.
The next day, I asked Marilee if there were any old phones lying around the office I could buy or if I'd have to try eBay. Work didn't have any spares, but she had an old iPhone 4S she wasn't using for music anymore. She offered to bring it in the next day. Angela happened to have an old Otterbox case and we were in business!
I was going to leave the cellular plan disabled, figuring Ian could play games, take pictures, and use it wherever there was wifi. But even taking it with me to my lunch meeting, I got annoyed that I couldn't download a new app I thought of until I got back to the office. On the way home from work, I started to wonder how much it would cost at the Verizon store to activate the cellular.
30 minutes later, my four-year-old had a phone number and a data plan.
I felt a little guilty at first. Maybe he would have been okay with just the wifi aspects. But have you ever tried to explain to someone under the age of 6 the difference in wifi and cellular? Is it only in people's houses? All houses? All stores? Some schools? At hotels but probably not worth it because it's unusably slow?
I told the Verizon associate I was activating this phone for our son. She had several questions about how much data he would be using and I wasn't sure how to answer. Once we'd picked a plan and she was setting it up, she asked how old he was. I sheepishly told her that he was only four and she assured me that I was not a horrible mother for getting him a phone. Mind you, she does sell phones for a living so she's a little biased, but I did feel a bit better.
I had told Ian the night before that I would have a phone for him after work once I got it from Marilee. When I picked up Ian from Jenna's he had forgotten about the phone in all the excitement over playing in the pool. But when I showed him his phone and told him he could make calls whenever he wanted, he was delighted. I told him he could take photos all his own. He may have squealed.
That evening he told me, "Mommy, I need to make sure I have shorts with pockets so I can carry my phone around." We lounged in the bed that night watching Tinkerbell while I held his phone for him. After a bit, he said seriously, "Don't forget, Mommy, that's my phone." And when the movie was over, he yawned and rolled over for bed but then sat straight up and exclaimed, "I need to charge my phone while I'm sleeping!"
I showed him where all the 30-pin chargers are in the house so he knows how to recharge it (the line on the charging cable goes face up). I showed him how to get to the phone icon, choose the favorites star, and click on my picture to call me. I showed him how to tell if the phone was on wifi or not with the little icon. He's learning how to count to 100 and understand that 87 is larger than 32 versus just two big numbers, so he can decipher his battery life. He's worried that he can't message me since he can't type yet, but we're working on that. I expect a steep learning curve over the next few months.
He woke up the next morning and checked the phone's battery life first thing, but then was happy to leave it while he got dressed and ready for breakfast. We took it with us to Panera and did a practice call across the table to test it out. He was very pleased. I asked if he wanted to look for new shoes at Wal-mart and he was pretty excited. He took his phone with him in his shorts and I feared the elastic waistband may fail under the weight.
We headed to the shoe department and he found several he liked. All of a sudden, while sitting in the floor about to try on Lightning McQueen shoes, he blurted out, "Woah! I gotta take a picture of these!" He then dug out his phone, opened the camera app and took several pictures of the shoes before trying them on and deciding to get them. It was my turn to be delighted.
We looked for a few more essentials while there, and when we passed the dairy aisle, Ian had to stop and take a photo of the cottage cheese.
I don't know where he gets it from.
Soon it was time for him to go on his adventure with Sara and her boys while I drove back down to Winston-Salem for Rich's surgery. Ian kept telling me he was going to miss me, but I told him he could call me on his phone whenever he wanted and that seemed to please him. I hadn't been in the hospital an hour before Ian had called me. It was approximately a one minute phone call, but Ian called just to tell me, "Mommy! I'm calling you from my very own phone!"
My parents don't have smart phones. The last time I was in North Carolina with Rich while Ian was home with them, I learned it's very hard when all three people want to talk to me at once. So Ian is feeling very in control just knowing he has a phone that is his own personal connection to me whenever he wants. He didn't call me this morning before he went on his adventure with Stephanie. But he has several photos and videos waiting for him on his phone when he gets home.
Under other circumstances, I don't think I would have bought him a phone. But when both his parents are in another state for two weeks while his dad has major cancer surgery, it seems completely reasonable to me. I would have bought him a helicopter if I thought it would make any of this easier on us.
So far his weekend has been pretty great. And I was able to forward the videos on to his phone so he could watch them again whenever he wants.