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Would you allow your 13-year-old daughter, who is a straight-A student and never been in trouble, to buy herself an iPhone? She would pay for the handset and the bills herself, with money from allowance, Christmas, babysitting, and odd jobs. The phone is $159, and the plan is $35 a month (which she can afford). Is she too young? Should I allow it?
Age is not the issue. The fact that your daughter has both the funds and the desire to purchase a phone for herself should be the determinant.
Let’s consider a few factors here.
First, any 13-year-old who has managed to accrue sufficient money to make this purchase is almost by definition a high achiever and unusually mature for her age, unless you provide her with an allowance far beyond her needs. Based on your letter, she has taken the initiative to save money she received from you, from other relatives, and from employers. Refusing to allow a child to spend at least some of the money she has saved makes for a poor incentive regarding future saving.
Second, it’s her money. If you allowed her to work the jobs with the understanding that the funds would go into a college account or some other investment vehicle, then she cannot spend it. But if you did not place restrictions on it, and if she received or earned it on her own initiative, then the money is morally hers, even if you can legally prevent her from using it.
Third, this purchase will turn into a lesson in budgeting, and could blossom into lessons on smart shopping and dealing with jealousy. If your daughter goes over the limit, the bill is hers to pay. You can help her with the fine print and the contract details, but she should know from the beginning that the burden for understanding what she is buying is hers to bear. And she should also know going in that her purchase of an iPhone will probably cause people around her to wonder why they don’t have similar phones.
What does all this mean? It means that if your daughter wants to spend her hard-earned money on an iPhone, you would look like a bully if you prevented it. However, you would not be out of line to require that a certain portion of the money your daughter earns, receives, and saves goes into a college-savings account. You could enact this rule retroactively, or simply make it a condition of future purchases. With that policy comes another valuable lesson – delayed gratification.
My 2-year-old daughter and I will soon be taking a 2.5-hour plane flight and a six- to eight-hour drive. We have never done this before. My daughter has many DVDs. Is a mini-DVD player a must for such a trip? I can purchase one for perhaps $50.
No electronic device qualifies as a “must” for travel. Not too long ago, children survived long plane and car trips with nothing but the radio, tapes, books, and travel games.
If you can afford the mini-DVD player, it will certainly prove convenient, in that it frees you from having to interact with your daughter. But is that a good thing? These days, kids can plug in their ear buds and check out of the world in a way impossible before the advent of miniature electronics, and many will do so without parental encouragement. Don’t rush your daughter into that stage.
By all means, consider the mini-DVD player. But also consider learning some word games you can play with her. Audiobooks are another possibility. They differ from the DVDs in one important way – both of you can participate. Go to the library and check out some books on tape or CD. When you reach an exciting, scary, or interesting part, you can stop the play and discuss it with your daughter. And after the story ends, you can relive the best parts.
It takes a little more work to plan interactive activities, but they can make for a rewarding trip.
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