TAMPA - Katie Wentworth is a mother of three boys under the age of ten. But even at only ten, her eldest, Jackson, came to her with a major request: He wanted a smart phone.
"I thought it was ridiculous, and he wasn't ready, and there was not a value for it. So, I said no," said Wentworth.
But then she watched a story on ABC Action News about a Massachusetts mother and her creative idea. A cell phone contract for her young son.
"When I saw it, I immediately thought, 'genius,'" said Wentworth.
She loved the concept. Especially now. Wentworth's husband, the boys' dad, recently took a job out of state. It's been very hard, especially on Jackson. She thought texting could help him better communicate.
"I think it has been an invaluable tool for us at this age," said Wentworth.
So they got him a phone, but he had to agree to a verbal contract.
"I can't have any inappropriate behavior on texting and I can't be mean to my friends by texting them," said Jackson.
"We told him we have the pass codes," said Wentworth. "He knows that we are searching it, we are checking it, and most important, I thought, was when your mom and dad call you got to pick it up."
They also said Jackson has to do a special report every week to be able to have use of the phone.
"We thought it was important to teach Jackson responsibility, and remind him that it is a privilege to have a phone like this," said Wentworth.
A recent study by Pew Research found 75 percent of children 12 and older own their own phone. Psychologist Sheila Katt-Beck said the idea is brilliant.
"Any parent who wants to increase communication with their kid ought to be texting," said Dr. Katt-Beck. "This is really a no brainer."
But the doctor and Wentworth realize a lot of negativity is associated with kids and phones, especially texting. A contract can negate it.
"It is certainly a privilege to have a smart phone," said Dr. Katt-Beck. "Parents can use that to the benefit of the child to get more good behaviors out of the kid and to help him to really value what he is being give."
Dr. Katt-Beck said you can individualize the contract to meet your family values. She added don't be surprised when your child actually appreciates the guidelines.
"Kids do really good when you give them expectations," said Dr. Katt-Beck. "What I am hoping is that even more parents see this report and see what this mom (Katie Wentworth) is doing. And for those who haven't put that kind of thought into it realize that you don't t have to just give something to your child and have no expectations attached to it."
Wentworth said she is pleasantly surprised and sees so many advantages to the phone. Jackson already texted her when he wanted to get out of an uncomfortable situation
"I can't imagine him actually picking up the phone and calling me with a bunch of his friends around, it was easier for him to text. For me, the unintended consequence is that I am much more in touch with Jackson," said Wentworth.
And Jackson not only grasps the concept, he's on board.
"I think the contract is really smart," said Jackson smiling as he texted away.
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