This is one of the most valuable tools I have found as the parent of a cell phone wielding kid.
We have a “no phones after 10:00 p.m. rule” in our house. Which is why my husband goes to bed at 9:45 p.m. sharp. Every. Single. Night.
I recently tweeted:
And then? I walked the dreaded 16 steps down to the kids’ rooms. Yes. I’ve counted. It’s what I do to prepare myself. I approached the first room and lightly knocked, got the usual grunt, entered and said as I approached his bed in a fake cheerful voice that dripped in fear, “It’s 10:00. I need your phone sweetie.”
What happened next was something I knew would happen someday but I was still completely unprepared. My over six feet tall son said, “I’m not giving it to you. This is a stupid rule. All my friends get to keep their phones,” and he held the phone out of my reach.
I stood there for a few seconds stunned, face turning red and feeling something utterly disgusting. I felt powerless. What was I going to do? He was physically holding the phone out of my reach and he looked determined.
Then, like remembering the room mom’s name just before Her Cheeriness approaches you surrounded by her posse of judgmental do-gooders, I had an epiphany that empowered. “Give me the phone,” I said, “or I will go online right now and suspend your service.” That should do it.
“Go ahead,” he said. How very rational.
“Ok,” I said and stomped up the stairs to log on to Verizon and suspend his social lifeline. As I was punching in my account number and password it occurred to me, If I suspend this phone, I will suffer too.
I need to be able to reach him. Often. I am running late, a practice has been cancelled, he is staying at a friend’s, etc. And then there, on the Verizon page, I spotted something so amazing I could barely catch my breath.
PARENTS HERE THIS: You can suspend your kid’s cell phone accounts for certain amounts of time each day. It isn’t a dream. I really just said that. And it’s TRUE.
It’s called Usage Controls. It should be called The Greatest Thing to Happen to Parents of Teens Since Wine, but I don’t fault Verizon for their lack of creativity.
It is incredibly simple. I should tell you it costs $4.99 per month. Worth every penny.
Log into your account.
Type Usage Controls in the Search Bar. You will see this.
Then follow the instructions.
You will see this box where you can click the hours of suspension. (A frightening witch like cackle escaped my lips with every click of the box.)
So that they are not completely cut off from the world in case of emergencies, Verizon allows you to add “Trusted Numbers” that they can reach during suspended hours. They can always dial 911.
Both of my kids’ phones now automatically stop working from the hours of 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. The moral of the story? They may grow bigger than you, but they will never grow smarter.